James McAvoy is fearless. The actor best known for his recent work as Professor Charles Xavier has been doing quite a bit of strange cinema lately and we couldn’t be happier. His role as Bruce Robertson in the Jon S. Baird directed Filth is a perfect example of just how far he will take a performance on screen, and now we are getting another chance to see him go all out in M. Night Shyamalan’s new film Split.
Split is the story of three young women who find themselves kidnapped and held against their will by a man suffering from extreme personality disorder. From the trailer, we see that these characters are abducted, drugged and quickly placed in an underground area that could be located anywhere. This is a familiar set up for tense thrillers and mystery films, but when the kidnapper starts shifting from one personality to another, the situation becomes even more scary and unpredictable.
McAvoy is playing a character here that displays 23 multiple functioning personalities. The moments in the trailer when he changes between them makes it look like Split could be one of his most intense films as an actor. Very few actors today could approach this kind of role with sincerity and commitment, and much like John Lithgow in Raising Cain and Michael Caine in Dressed to Kill James McAvoy is capable of way more than just putting on a dress and acting like a murderous lunatic.
Where will it rank in the pantheon?
There’s definitely going to be a backlash against this film for its content, but again this is a chance to see a fantastic actor doing something different. Last year’s Shyamalan movie The Visit was a weird horror story that did well in theaters, and Split will see many of the production team reunited to include Blumhouse producer Jason Blum. Genre fans can easily find a lot of connections to movies like The Silence of the Lambs and 10 Cloverfield Lane in the premise and tone of Split, but until 20 January 2017, we’ll just have to wonder what twist Shyamalan has in store for us this time.