Plot: Dennis (James McAvoy) has just kidnapped three teenage girls and locked them inside a prepared room, but some of his roommates aren’t as pleased with these new arrivals. The girls can even overhear arguing at times, but they soon learn their situation is more dire than they imagined. Dennis is just one of numerous personalities that reside within this man, who seems to be unstable and unpredictable, moving between personas often and with ease. As the girls do their best to survive, some of the personalities reach out for help from psychiatrist Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who knows the case well and is sympathetic to the mental illness. The persona of Barry reassures her that everything is fine, but she can sense the situation isn’t as calm as he insists. Meanwhile Dennis prepares for the arrival of The Beast, a monstrous presence that he is confident will show the world of their power. Can the girls survive this hellish encounter and is The Beast real?
Entertainment Value: The premise of Split is interesting, as we have this plethora of personas inside one person and there is a constant struggle for power, with clear lines drawn in the sand. But instead of focusing on that side of the narrative, the movie leans on subplots of the kidnapped girls and the imminent arrival of The Beast. The story of Casey is passable, but it isn’t given enough time or depth to resonate, so it seems odd to take focus off the main thread. If the movie had been about the internal struggle, I think Split could have been remarkable, but instead we have a passable, but middle of the road thriller. The shallow approach to the mental illness really holds the movie back, not to mention the need to make this an action/thriller at times and a conclusion that disappoints on all levels. James McAvoy is the bright spot, as he does well in playing the various personas. But I also felt like an accent and a change of clothes can only do so much, so while solid, I wasn’t dazzled by his effort. I would have loved a more internalized approach, but I understand that a subtle take might have confused audiences. I found the finale to be trite and a total let down, feeling more like a set up for a sequel to a different movie than any kind of satisfying finish to Split. This is still a watchable thriller, but it could have been so much more, so I am left rather let down by this one.
No nakedness. A little blood, but not much. All of the violence happens off screen and even then is infrequent, unless you find a firm hug to be terrifying, that is. I have to think the PG-13 rating impacted the movie’s narrative, as it plays it so safe it comes off sanitized, which certainly doesn’t suit the material. A darker, more visceral take on the concept could have been more interesting, but the movie is content to aim the content at tweens. The dialogue is mostly forgettable, as it never goes in depth on the characters or the mental illness. A few seconds of video is all we have to offer insight on the internal struggle, which is a shame. The writing isn’t bad per se, just mediocre and passes up so many chances to enhance this concept or at least give us a reason to care about anyone involved. No real craziness aside from the literal craziness, which is treated like a novelty and never explored much. For a movie about someone with severe mental issues, this one is quite tame and sane.
Overall Insanity: 0/10