The curious career of M Night Shyamalan has taken another twist, appropriately enough for a man seemingly obsessed with them, with this latest film of his, which appears on the surface to be a fairly standard abduction thriller but, like almost all his films to greater or lesser success, gets weirder and more far-fetched as it goes along. Having had a rough time of things both critically and commercially in recent years, it’s something of a return to form for Shyamalan, having done terrific business at the US box office and, more promisingly, is probably his best film since his brilliant breakthrough The Sixth Sense.

The film’s main draw comes from the high concept that its kidnapper antagonist has a complex form of Dissociative Identity Disorder, in that he has 23 distinctly different personalities (and later on, a monstrous 24th). This provides James McAvoy with the opportunity to properly let rip and show off, which he relishes with aplomb (particularly in a couple of scenes where he runs almost the entire gamut of characters in one go), but there’s more to the film than this gimmick. Shyamalan uses an original and interesting device of having McCoy’s therapy sessions bookend the film’s action, allowing us to understand his character’s illness as things progress, and he ramps up the horror and suspension of disbelief in a suitably OTT final reel.

The use of DID in this way is controversial, and probably not very helpful. It does seem to enforce the inaccurate and unhelpful stigma that people with similar mental illnesses are likely to be dangerous or violent, when in fact they’re more likely to be victims. All this criticism has unquestionable merit, but it’s hard to take a film like this seriously when it openly embraces supernatural horror as it does, particularly towards the end. It’s essentially a comic book movie without advertising itself as such, and the connection is eventually made absolutely explicit in the film’s final shot, which will delight fans of Shyamalan’s intriguing earlier film Unbreakable.

SPLIT
M Night Shyamalan's best film since The Sixth Sense9
James McAvoy having the time of his life with 24 different roles at once9
An unhelpful, inaccurate and stereotypical depiction of Dissociative Identity Disorder4
The film is so silly, especially towards the end, that it just about gets away with it7
A sort-of twist in its last shot that's very cool9
Bechdel Test passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel test failures
  • n/a
8Overall Score

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