Anya Taylor-Joy

Split

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Three teenage girls are kidnapped and held captive by a man. It soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary man. He has 23 distinct personalities living within his mind. A few of those personalities have taken over and have devised a plan. They want to use the young girls in order to bring out a 24th personality known only as The Beast. The girls must either find a way to escape or try to convince one of the personalities to help them before it’s too late.

In the past there have been some pretty great films with characters who have dissociative identity disorder. A couple of them have even been in the horror genre. Split will go down as one of the top films featuring someone with multiple personalities. There are many reasons Split is a standout film for me. A large part of this is the way the main character, Kevin, was written. I appreciated that they emphasized that, while there are evil personalities within Kevin, many of them are good. It is similar to looking at a group of people in a room; some of them will be good and some of them will have a dark side. It is almost a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde scenario where the actions of one personality cannot be blamed on another. I also love that the film explained how Kevin gained his personalities and that each of them came into being for different reasons depending on Kevin’s needs. By having one of the main characters in the film be Kevin’s psychologist the audience gets a more in-depth look into the inner workings of his mind.

The film also did an excellent job of having unique characters in each of the girls. While all of them are important in their own way, one of them is very important to the story. Casey is the dark and mysterious loner of the group. She is more observant than the other girls and uses whatever knowledge she can gain to survive. Learning about Casey and her past alongside Kevin’s added a very interesting juxtaposition. We as the audience get to see how both characters went through rather traumatic childhoods. While they are both emotionally, mentally, and even physically damaged from this trauma, it is interesting to see how they both coped with things in vastly different ways.

All five of the leads in Split did a tremendous job. James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class, Wanted) gave one of the best performances I have ever seen from him as Kevin and all his many other personalities. What made McAvoy’s performances so great was that you could clearly tell which personality he was at all times. Not only did he change his voice to fit each personality, but he even changed his body language. He simply blew me away. As always, Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Morgan) was also amazing as Casey. Taylor-Joy has made a name for herself in the horror world, and Split was no different. She expertly portrayed Casey as a survivor. Casey will use what she has learned from her sorted past to get through any obstacle that comes her way. McAvoy and Taylor-Joy’s moments together on screen made for some chilling scenes.

M. Night Shyamalan is known for having amazing twists in his films. Something that he has done more recently in The Visit and Split is add humor to his films. Split is a very gritty, intense, and sometimes even frightening film. Interspersed throughout all that are a lot of very humorous parts. In a film like this, having humor can be a risky decision. Ultimately I thought having times where the audience can laugh not only added some relief between scenes of high tension, but also made the film have a bit more of a realistic flare. If you are dealing with someone who has multiple personalities, some being 9 years old or the opposite sex of the body, it is only natural that humorous things will happen.

While overall I loved the film, there is one thing that keeps bothering me. I will be as vague as possible since going into too much detail will spoil some things. There is one scene at the end of the film. The scene lasts maybe 2 minutes and it is the last thing you see. This one scene managed to ruin the film a bit for me. While I can see why some people will be thrilled by it, I am not one of those people. Others will simply have no idea what the significance of those last two minutes are. The scene turned this film into something completely different than you would have expected by watching the first hour and 55 minutes. It is something new for Shyamalan, and it definitely leaves room for him to possibly do his first sequel. Yet I simply can’t get on board with how he ended the film.

Split is not only an edge of your seat film, but it is also a film that shows the many interesting facets of the human brain. If nothing else this film is worth seeing just to watch James McAvoy playing numerous characters. There are definitely more things to love about Split than hate. Personally I wish the film had ended without the addition of that last scene. For those of you who plan on seeing Split, I have one very vague piece of advice for you. Be sure that you are familiar with all of Shyamalan’s previous films.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10

Morgan

A group of scientists have artificially created a humanoid hybrid. Everything was going as planned until the humanoid, named Morgan, violently attacked one of the scientists. The corporation in charge decides to send a risk management analyst, Lee Weathers, to the remote site of the experiment. Her job is to determine whether or not Morgan should be terminated. During her investigation it becomes clear that Morgan is much too dangerous, and she is just getting started.

This is a film I feel very conflicted about. Immediately after seeing the film, my initial reaction was that it was great and I loved it. There is a lot to like about the film. Morgan is a great scifi thriller that keeps your attention and the plot was compelling. I also enjoyed when important bits of information were divulged in a variety of different ways, such as flashbacks and security camera footage, so it wasn’t one linear story. There were also many moments of calm that were broken by bloody violence. These were some of my favorite moments because the film makes a point of emphasizing that Morgan is still a child. When you see her commit these acts of extreme violence it’s shocking and beautiful, much like when you watch a wolf hunt a deer.

When looking at the character development, the only characters that didn’t feel like they were “phoned in” were Morgan, Lee Weathers, and the behaviorist, Dr. Amy Menser. The rest of the scientists felt a bit forced. There were a few big name actors in minor roles where we as the audience are made to simply assume their connection and love for Morgan. The film would have been just fine without many of the scientists, and with lesser known actors.

My biggest problem is I can think of two films that came out within the past two years that are strikingly similar to Morgan. Those films are The Hybrid (2014) and Ex Machina (2015). All three films feature an experiment in some kind of underground bunker, the experiment is a humanoid hybrid or has a human appearance, and the experiment will do whatever it takes to get out of the confines of its underground prison. While there are differences between all of these films that make them unique, it is hard for me to look past the similarities when judging the plot. I will say that Morgan had a bit more of a unique ending compared to the other two films. Without giving too much away, the way Morgan ended was similar to how I thought Ex Machina was going to end. Yet with Morgan it was something I didn’t see coming until the last 15 minutes of the film.

One of the best aspects of this film was the acting. Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) gave another knock-out performance in her second leading role in a major motion picture. Taylor-Joy plays Morgan in such a way that you at once both sympathize with her and fear her. Morgan is not fully human, and Taylor-Joy does an excellent job of emphasizing this fact at the perfect times. Kate Mara (Fantastic Four, The Martian) was also outstanding as Lee Weathers. She is a bit cold and robotic, but it worked perfectly for the character of Lee because she is a very calculating and analytical person. The surprise performance in this film was Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Straight Outta Compton). He plays the psychologist the corporation brings in to analyze Morgan. Giamatti has a very small role in the film, but he brings such a powerful performance to the role that he stands out in your mind, even after the film ends.

Morgan is a film that grabs your attention and makes you question whose side you want to be on. While it may not have the most original plot, and other films may have done a better job with that plot, it is still a great film. Setting aside some of the lesser unnecessary characters, the two lead actresses bring such power and elegance to the film. If you focus solely on Taylor-Joy and Mara, then this film exceeds expectations. Unfortunately, I have to also factor in the plot and the somewhat sloppily written scientists. It is a film I would definitely watch again, and recommend to fans of the scifi thriller genre, but there are many ways in which it could improve.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10