Film, Thrillers
3 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(8user reviews)

M Night Shyamalan returns with a freaky thriller about a kidnapper with multiple personalities

M Night Shyamalan still takes himself deadly seriously, as if none of the flops after ‘The Sixth Sense’ ever happened. His latest thriller is ‘Split’, one of those sombre, cello-scored dramas about a clever psychopath. James McAvoy (having too much actorly fun) is Kevin, who has 23 multiple personalities and – more worryingly – three high-school girls locked up in his cellar. The cool problem-solving skills of one of them, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy ), will have you rooting for her.

‘Split’ trots out many of Shyamalan’s pet moves, including his tendency to infuse genre nonsense with the trauma of child abuse. A lot of the film works better in flashback, as we learn what made young Casey so steely. Less successful are the endless therapy sessions between McAvoy’s therapist (Betty Buckley) and his character’s personalities, which include a camp fashion designer, a religious woman and a little boy (left). ‘Split’ doesn’t build to a typical Shyamalan twist ending – or a proper ending at all. It leaves you hanging in a way that feels pretentious.

There’s a tiny shiver of something in the final few seconds that doesn’t exactly change what we’ve watched so much as say: I’m still M Night Shyamalan and I’m still crazy! Half the audience will gasp; the rest of you will roll your eyes. Split, indeed

By: Joshua Rothkopf


Release details

Release date:
Friday January 20 2017
117 mins

Cast and crew

M. Night Shyamalan
M. Night Shyamalan
James McAvoy
Haley Lu Richardson
Anya Taylor-Joy
Betty Buckley

Average User Rating

3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:1
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Inexcusably lame given the pedigree of the director and the leading man. Yes, I know M. Night Shyamalan’s career of late has been less hit and more miss but he’s still the same man who gave us ‘The Sixth Sense’ and ‘Signs’ so I’m clinging on to the belief that a nugget of talent stills burns inside of him. Ok maybe a nugget is too much…a kernel?

Poorly written with lines that James McAvoy, normally one of the best actors around, seems unable to connect with at all, it starts fairly promisingly – the scene where he takes the girls is literally the stuff of nightmares and seems frighteningly possible – but descends pretty quickly into ‘who cares’ territory. I can’t make up my mind whether McAvoy simply couldn’t handle a role like this – Edward Norton’s incredible Aaron Stampler in ‘Primal Fear’ would have eaten him alive – or whether the combination of twitchy direction & script from Shyamalan proved too messy for him to handle...I’m hoping it was the latter.

I’m not a fan of Anya Taylor-Joy – ‘The Witch’ is one of the worst films I’ve seen in a long time – while the other two abductees – whose names I can’t even remember – were so shrill and annoying that I didn’t find myself rooting for anyone’s survival with any real feeling.

The bare bones of something good were here but sadly, the skills of those involved to flesh it out into something genuinely terrifying (or at least even intriguing) were not.


James McAvoy stars in this movie where he has multiple split personalities and switches between them with great aplomb. This kidnap movie is tense at times but I also get the feeling Mr Shyamalan just wanted to work with teenage girls stripped to their underwear! I was waiting for the usual twist all the way through only to be disappointed by a tacked on ending which really was an odd decision. I'll leave that it there!


Anything with James McAvoy gets my sign of approval, yet this time I was dubious with M. Night Shyamalan as the director. As a big fan of psychological thrillers; I knew I had to check the film out for myself and it started off pretty well. Just the right amount of jumpiness kept me on the edge of my seat whilst watching through the gaps on my fingers. James McAvoy portrays Bobby excellently and takes the viewer on a long and complex journey across his multiple personalities. However the young actresses seemed to channel the standard teen horror flick character with constant whines and screams. The film starts to fall down towards the end when it seems that vital parts of the story have been cut out and I could see others in the cinema look around in confusion, thinking that they'd missed an important scene. The story moves from quite believable to far fetched and fantasy and I left the cinema feeling disappointed and perplexed. 5/5 for McAvoy's acting but the story does not do the film justice.


As a James McAvoy fan I was ever hopeful for this film to reach my high expectations, and it did! Shayamalan has created a thrilling film full of twists and an unsure story-line. Brilliant casting, great story-line and wonderful lead on, leaving me thinking and wanting more. I must say the story line was slightly different to what I expected but was pleasantly surprised that plot flowed and amazing McAvoy carried the entranced audience all the way through to the end thinking 'what next..'. Worth a watch- especially if you are a McAvoy or Shayamalan fan.

God I hated this film! Contrived, poorly executed, not especially clever...1/5 stars. I feel I've either missed something vital or have been hoodwinked by Shyamalan. My advice - stay away! My review for more: http://bit.ly/splitmcavoy 


Shayamalan is back, not at his best but certainly a welcome return. McAvoy is astonishing in this; a brilliant performance. Multi-talented and very believable. I didn't enjoy the end so much, left me puzzled and a tad frustrated; a bit too clever for its own good really. There wasn't too much gore and plenty of tension. Worth a watch.

Shayamalan is well known for causing a stir among critics, so every time he releases something new I watch it with an open mind, and I must confess, most of the what he does is genius. Split is no exception. Visually the film is very strong. Beautiful compositions, a very interesting exploration of the basement space and the cage, claustrophobic but truly personal and sincere, which is refreshing to see. The film's subject of the exploration of identity, through an incredible performance by James McAvoy, follows a man who has twenty-four different personalities. The twenty-forth being a strange Beast that is about to be unleashed. He has abducted three teenagers, with one of them (Anya Taylor-Joy) being a trained hunter taught by her loving father, who died when she was a kid and has since then been looked after by her paedophile, sexually abusing uncle. The 24th personality of the Beast is then a metaphor of the bestial uncle, and no matter whether she escapers or not, she will be hunted by a beast, be it a supernatural stranger or her own uncle. Shayamalan's self-referencing ending also gives another layer of interpretation to the film and explains the ending of his earlier film 'Unbreakable'. Overall, this film is very coherent, with a strong subject matter and carefully crafted visuals. Definitely worth watching.


There's some good stuff here - excellent performances, well-shot sequences and tense pacing. Shame about the rest of it. The story starts well enough then descends into shambles with problematic utilisation of mental health for storytelling purposes.