Movie Review: Glass (Spoiler Free).
The final installment of M. Night Shyamalan’s unconventional superhero trilogy delivers what it promised. That may not be a good thing for some fans.
Glass has been polarizing critics. It’s been well received by fans, but has taken a drubbing on Rotten Tomatoes. I think much of this, ahem, split comes from misplaced expectations. If you went into the film expecting another Split, you’re likely to be disappointed. Glass is very much a sequel to Unbreakable. While the film effectively uses the characters and motifs from Split, it is much more concerned with the themes introduced in Unbreakable: what if comic book heroes were real? What would they look like, and how would they be regarded by the rest of us? If you liked the ideas Shyamalan broached in Unbreakable, you’ll find Glass to be a satisfying conclusion.
Having lost his mental battle with The Beast, Kevin Wendel Crumb (James McAvoy) is at large and indulging his murderous desires. David Dunn (Bruce Willis), a man whose brush with tragedy left him with super strength and an unbreakable body, has become a vigilante hunting Crumb. Searching for both men is a psychologist (Sarah Paulson) who specializes in patients with delusions that convince them they are super heroes. Behind all of these players lurks Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), the diabolical genius known as Mr. Glass, who is maneuvering everyone into an explosive confrontation for his own purposes.
Glass is one of Shymalan’s best made films when you look at the nuts and bolts. He’s shown he has a gift for cinematography and set composition; even his more problematic films such as The Happening or Lady in the Water were beautiful to look at and had a great sense of setting. Glass is likewise visually pleasing while creating a grounded setting. The choice of locations may have been a result of the film’s modest budget, but it winds up reinforcing the theme that these characters are in the real world. It always feels like these supernatural events are happening right around the corner, in places you could recognize in real life.
In addition to looking good, the film is paced well and moves between its subplots with ease. The two trailers had very different narratives in them, making me wonder if the film’s story and direction were garbled. That winds up not being the case. From the streets to the mental hospital, the story moves logically and coherently, allowing Shyamalan to build on the “hero in a tough city” aspects of Unbreakable and the claustrophobic captivity aspects of Split.
Comic Book Characters.
The acting in this film is solid, and is particularly striking for how easily the cast slips back into characters that some of them haven’t played for nearly twenty years. The script does right by the characters for the most part; my only grumble is that Anya Taylor-Joy feels under utilized. McAvoy is still mesmerizing as Crumb, switching nimbly from one personality to another. Willis is certainly in his comfort zone playing a stoic but vulnerable hero. I was impressed with Spencer Treat Clark, who plays Dunn’s son Joseph. He’s the same actor who played the role as a child 20 years ago, and recasting him was an authentic touch I appreciated. Sam Jackson is a real treat as Mr. Glass. The villain is often a plumb role, and Mr. Jackson certainly does seem to be having fun when he flashes his devilish smirk. What’s nice is that his character is more than just a charming baddie: he’s got quite a few layers and lives up to being the namesake of the film.
For the new characters, Sarah Paulson does a good job as the psychiatrist whose desire to cure the delusional borders on a crusade. She has the most heavy lifting to do when it comes to showing how Glass is its own story and not just Unbreakable 2. As such, some of her dialogue is a bit on the nose, but she effectively communicates her character’s layered motivations.
Let’s Twist Again?
M. Night Shyamalan is in a bind of his own making when it comes to plot twists. His star rose on the inspired revelations in movies like The 6th Sense, and it sank for many when his twists stopped being clever or believable. For good or ill, he can’t make a movie without there being an expectation of a big twist. For those wondering, Glass does have what you could consider a twist, but it’s not an ass pull like Signs. One of the reasons I think Glass is Shyamalan’s most effective films is because he has learned to handle his reveals with more care and to put more signposts along the highway leading up to them. I can’t see anyone feeling betrayed or incredulous after seeing how Glass turns out. Instead of throwing a sudden curve, Glass is constructed in such a way that it builds to its climax organically. I quite enjoyed it.
It Is What It Is.
Glass does a good job of wrapping up the thought experiment Shyamalan started in Unbreakable. It is very much concerned with how realistic people who have comic-book abilities would make their way through the real world, and how they would be treated by those around them. It does have some super hero smack downs. It does have some devilish twists and evil schemes. But it’s not really a superhero movie or even a superhero knock-off. It’s not trying to subvert the genre or to homage it. It’s really its own animal altogether. If you liked the somber and psychologically driven story of Unbreakable, you most likely are going to like Glass. If you’re looking for another horror/thriller like Split, or want some mind screw like The 6th Sense, you’re likely to leave disappointed. I think Glass is a good movie, and certainly one of the better films form a director who seems to yo-yo between greatness and awfulness. Just know what you’re getting into before purchasing your ticket.