Split – Review

Going into a M. Night Shyamalan film nowadays comes with certain guarantees. You’ll have been wooed by the trailer, believing he’s back on The Sixth Sense sort of form. After an hour, you’ll feel the eerie creep of disappointment settling in. By the end, the “twist” will lead to abject dismay and a vow never to trust him again. But then he serves up James McAvoy playing a man with twenty-three distinct personalities.

So, we all jump aboard the Shyamalan train once again. This time we know from the adverts that McAvoy’s character kidnaps three teenage girls. They come in the guise of Skins’ Jessica Sula and her best buddy, Haley Lu Richardson’s Claire. When they’re nabbed, they are leaving Claire’s birthday party and have sympathy invite – and our lead protagonist – Anya Taylor-Joy’s Casey with them.

So far, so good. The build begins for a psychological thriller. We first meet Dennis, an OCD strict jailer. This personality is kept in check by Patricia, his female personality that helps run the gig. The plan is to feed the girls to The Beast, a yet-to-be-met personality that is above all humankind.

Do you feel that thriller swinging toward a horror?

In between captive scenes, we see Dennis parade as Barry to his therapist and seeks counsel. She totally buys the idea that within a person, multiple, completely separate identities can exist. She even gives examples how physiological changes occur depending on the personality assumed.

The host in this case is Kevin but he’s been overrun by Dennis and Patricia. The collective is known as The Horde. It’s explained they all sit around a circle waiting for their time in the light. Kevin’s nine-year-old personality, Hedwig, has the ability to control people’s slot in the light. He’s agreed to assist Dennis and Patricia because they prevent The Horde poking fun at him.

For a time, it becomes teen slasher. The girls try revolts and get put into solitary confinement. But throughout all the main actors do their roles justice. McAvoy is impressive carrying the load of diverse personas but it’s no Heath Ledger as The Joker. More, engaging performance amidst a struggling script.

When we finally get to meet The Beast, the movie becomes ludicrous. It’s okay to suspend disbelief if the requirement is made clear early on. But to start with a grounded tone, have scenes stressing the seriousness of dissociative identity disorder, to then descend into something that would look ridiculous in a modern-day comic book is almost unforgivable.

4/10 . . . if the film finished a few minutes earlier than it did.

Remember how M. Night Shyamalan likes to throw in a twist? Well, he does it again here. I’ll not ruin it for you but that “almost” before unforgivable is for occasions such as this. For the sake of a quick shock in the cinema, he would have been better just laying his cards out in advance. Doing so would have enhanced the viewing of the movie rather than numerous headshakes at the screen and the laughter it unintentionally provided in various scenes.

5/10 (Probably should be more after the final scene sinks in but M. Night Shyamalan has missed a trick.)

The Revenant – Review

For the second movie review running the delightful Tom Hardy graces the screen. But The Revenant is a Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle. All plaudits and attention have gone to him. After all the hype, thousands of memes fighting to ensure he bagged an Oscar, the dust has settled. What remains in the cold light of day raises a few problems.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, director and screenwriter, hasn’t done a bad job. Let’s get that out of the way. The criticisms that follow are more down to the burden of the film’s own hype. It’s a visual feast and he has captured the harshness of the environment. At times it is a moving canvas. Sadly, a picture here doesn’t paint a thousand words. It just fills in some time before Leo rolls around in the snow and/or dirt again.

That brings us to the leading man. Before we go on, he didn’t deserve an Academy Award for this performance. Yeah, yeah, he did deserve one on his mantelpiece at some point. But not in this turn. At times the suspension of belief asks too much. At others he mumbles through plot holes. Like, literally.

After being mortally wounded after the famous bear scene (I’m sure you’ve all seen the publicity surrounding it) he is left unable to speak (took a nasty scrape to the throat). But he did manage to muster some words for his son when an emotional scene required it. Then he was silent again for an hour.

He also musters up energy when seconds previous he couldn’t raise an eyebrow. It made me raise mine. Numerous other scenes had the same effect. He fell off a mountain but survived the fall thanks to a tree and then copied Han Solo’s survival techniques from the Empire Strikes Back‘s Hoth scene, a whole 160 years before that movie had made its way to cinema screens.

Pointing fun at the film is the only way to not feel saddened at a missed opportunity.

This could have been a modern day Deliverance. Instead it is a film only powerful at times, at others it is more vacuous than the landscape it is set in.

And like his effort in Legend, Tom Hardy once again has a stellar performance overlooked. Last time it was down to a poor script. This time the story is better, but the focus all wrong.

It’s rating is based on the touching scenes, the moral of connection through adversity, Hardy’s contribution, and the visual delights.

7/10