Sunday, 22 January 2017


Wading defiantly through troublesome waters as though to confirm his heralding as more problematic auteur than enfant terrible, M. Night Shyamalan's stride has finally picked up its pace in a meaningful way. Split is a significant step up for an artist whose application of his remarkable talent ebbs and flows depending on his resources, his level of control, the purpose toward which that application is directed, the expectations and requirements of his intended audience. Here, the flow continues, commencing upon its most determined advancement in years. This low-scale though ambitious horror-thriller is not the outlet for his shortcomings as a writer, namely the inability to acknowledge himself as having any at all; it is resolutely the outlet for his directorial faculties, though, and the extent to which Shyamalan balances these facets into a  peculiar, disarming, consistently absorbing composite defines Split's own strange identity. As it used to be with this filmmaker, his work here feels ensnared in a conflict with itself, with varying intellectual, emotional and stylistic elements vying for the light - each boasts the benefits of thoughtful development and incisive utilization, yet also intrudes upon the other's space. Their individual attributes will be for each individual viewer to diagnose - Shyamalan is once again a man with so much to do and say that it's all rather too much in general, but with this abundance of content comes an abundance in quality in Split, alongside the potential that it might connect with its consumers in a positive manner. Above and beyond, or perhaps below it all are two elements whose conflict could hardly be more integral and whose impact could hardly be more different - the insensitivity of its premise begets the brilliance of its lead performance. James McAvoy devours this meaty part, and virtually makes the movie by himself. Not that he needs to, since these are mighty strides by his director, finally back on form.