Screen Time: ‘Split’

Embarrassingly enough, I do not see enough movies.

You’d think since acting is my passion, I’d be in the theater weekly catching all the new flicks and letting Hollywood provide a two-hour break from the world outside.

But, through the busy schedule of work and life I, like many of you, have a hard time finding the time to indulge on the big screen.

Occasionally, though, I do get a chance to attend a film and this past weekend I caught M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split” while out with friends in Fort Worth.

Have you seen it?

If you haven’t, drop what you’re doing and go directly to your nearest movie house. Do not pass go, do not collect $200 (actually, do collect the $200 – you’ll need it with today’s ticket and popcorn prices) and see this movie immediately.

It’s a thriller, so be prepared to sit on the edge of your reclining seat, and it’s worth every nail bite and bead of sweat you give it.

It stars James McAvoy as Kevin Crumb, a victim of childhood abuse who suffers from severe dissociative identity disorder.

Basically, he’s harboring 23 split personalities in his body and transitions from one to the next depending on circumstance and mood.

The plot line is familiar - a few girls get kidnapped, stashed away in a hidden room, and eventually muster up the courage to try and escape their captor. The set is minimal and mostly takes place in the basement of an unused maintenance building. The cast is tiny compared to even independent films, with only five actors commanding most of the screen time.

All of those things could make a movie boring, but it’s McAvoy’s performance that keeps this movie running full speed ahead right up until the end.

Until I saw this movie, I wouldn’t have said that I was necessarily a James McAvoy fan. Yes, he’s a great actor and I modeled my bucket-list performance as Mr. Tumnus in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” after his in the film version, but he’s always kind of “flown under the radar” to me.

That was until now.

Even if you don’t care for M. Night Shyamalan’s style, even if you don’t care for thrillers, you need to see this because of McAvoy’s brilliant performance.

He moves with ease between the personalities of a nine-year-old boy, a fashion designer, an obsessive-compulsive pervert, and a matriarch named “Patricia,” to name a few that were shown in the trailers.

His characters are so well developed that once you’ve met a couple of the dominant ones, you can instantly tell which personality has taken over Kevin’s body and can even start to guess how the following scene will unfold.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the menagerie of personalities that McAvoy brings to the table will keep you riding this entertainment roller coaster right up until the credits roll.

M. Night Shyamalan adds a uniqueness to showbiz that it’s been lacking for years. Recently, some of his productions like “The Happening,” “Lady in the Water,” and “The Village” haven’t been my favorites. I missed the man who created excellent films like “Signs” and “The Sixth Sense,” and after seeing “Split,” all I can say is “M. Night is back!”

Enjoy the show!

Oh, and don’t forget to look out for “the beast.”

Chance Gibbs is an actor and writer living in the Dallas area. He’s appeared in numerous television shows, films, professional and community theater, and TV commercials and has been a contributor to news publications since 2007.

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