DirectorM. Night Shyamalan
Release Date(s)2017 (April 18, 2017)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions (Universal)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C-
[Editor’s Note: This review contains minor spoilers. Reader beware.]
Bouncing back from negative critical and audience consensus and box office failure, M. Night Shyamalan returns to his roots in this film with a refreshing approach to his work, while at the same time maintaining his style and aesthetic. Split tells the story of three young women who are kidnapped and gradually realize that their captor is made up of multiple personalities. However, this is only the beginning of what he’s capable of. With something seemingly sinister on the horizon, it’s up to these women to find a way to keep things from escalating.
While I can’t comfortably declare Split to be a great movie, it’s still a very good one, and definitely the best that Shyamalan has made in years. It does a lot of things right with its premise, but because of its length and some of its messier story elements (particularly in the third act) it goes a little off the rails when a simpler approach might have been more beneficial. There are also just certain things in movies that you have to overlook in order to follow along. In the case of Split, it was a bit infuriating that none of these women make any real attempt to escape. A couple of half-hearted but ultimately aborted attempts are made, but at no point do they decide to get aggressive and attack, which I can’t imagine not happening. It’s more of a logic thing to me, like Laurie Strode throwing away the knife at the end of Halloween not just once, but twice. It doesn’t ruin the movie, but it’s certainly something that took me out of it while watching it.
As for the performances, James McAvoy is tremendous in the film, managing to capture both fear and sympathy for his character, or characters in this case. One of his would-be victims, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (who recently starred in The Witch), also gives an emotional performance. Shyamalan throws in an added bonus at the very end too, which sets up something for another movie. What this film does best, though, is to put its director back into a more positive spotlight, reminding us that even a good filmmaker can lose his way once in a while. Split is, if nothing else, a signal that he has learned from his past mistakes and will hopefully develop more material worth checking out in the future.
Thankfully, there isn’t anything worth complaining about when it comes to the movie’s Blu-ray presentation. It contains a beautiful transfer that manages to capture a little more image depth than other digitally-shot movies. A lot of it comes down to the actual staging of foreground and background elements, but the lack of grain usually yields a less compelling image, to me at least. Every aspect across the board here is solid and satisfying: color reproduction, black levels, brightness and contrast, you name it. For the audio, an English 5.1 DTS-HD track is available, as well as Spanish and French 5.1 DTS. There’s also an additional English 2.0 DVS track. The 5.1 contains quite a surround experience, with deep low end activity, as well as aggressive spacing and ambience. Dialogue is clean and clear, dominating mostly the front, while score and sound effects play a large role in the remaining speakers. It’s a top-notch presentation, overall. Subtitle options include English SDH, Spanish, and French.
The extras are fairly brief, but worth a look. The featurette material is, more or less, promotional by nature, so don’t expect too much from it. Included are an alternate ending and 9 additional deleted scenes (with optional audio commentary by Shyamalan); three featurettes (The Making of Split, The Many Faces of James McAvoy, The Filmmaker’s Eye: M. Night Shyamalan); a set of trailers that open the disc (The Mummy (2017), Bye Bye Man, Mindgamers, Incarnate, The Great Wall); a DVD copy; and a paper insert with a Digital Copy code.
While Split’s main draw is its manic and textured leading performance, it manages to stay interesting all the way through, despite its previously mentioned flaws. The Blu-ray A/V presentation is stellar, but the disc could definitely have used a boost in the extras department. Still, for the price, it’s recommended.
- Tim Salmons