‘Glass’ is half-full
Brian Boylen | Friday, February 15, 2019
Nineteen years out from the release of “Unbreakable” (2000), M. Night Shyamalan has finally finished his “Unbreakable” film trilogy with “Split” (2016) and “Glass” (2019). While this may seem like an unbearable time to wait that only fans of “A Song of Ice and Fire” (the “Game of Thrones” book series) have suffered, “Split” was not revealed to be in the universe of “Unbreakable” until the very last scene of the movie, in classic Shyamalan style. This got fans of “Unbreakable” buzzing, as it meant the return of lead characters David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Elijah Price or “Mr. Glass” (Samuel L. Jackson). The product of this movie universe combination is “Glass,” which focuses on these two aforementioned characters as well as the villain of “Split,” a man with 23 different personalities, often referred to as Kevin or “The Horde” (James McAvoy).
If you have not heard of any of these movies, this is probably starting to sound pretty weird. You would be correct. These films are set in a universe where people with extraordinary abilities — superheroes — exist. However, this is not your typical grandiose Marvel/DC superhero story. “Unbreakable” is centered on security guard David Dunn slowly discovering his latent invulnerability, with his foil being Elijah Price, a genius mastermind who is confined to a wheelchair due to brittle bone disease. “Split” is a psychological horror about some of Kevin’s personalities kidnapping a few teenage girls to sacrifice to a fabled “Beast” personality that has superhuman abilities. These movies are smaller in scale than the Marvel movies, focusing more on conflict with the characters rather than any save-the-world plot. “Glass” mostly follows this trend.
Since the events of “Unbreakable” David has been moonlighting as a crime-fighting vigilante, kind of like a more realistic Batman. When he goes to save some cheerleaders kidnapped by The Horde, he becomes engaged in a super-powered fight with the “Beast” personality. The police cut this fight short and the two characters are brought to a mental hospital, where their delusions of being superhuman are to be treated by psychiatrist Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). Elijah Price was already at this hospital, having been admitted after the revelations of “Unbreakable.” It is here that the vast majority of the movie occurs, for better or worse. I found the slowly growing tension within the facility to be thrilling, but some may feel like the movie is taking too long to go anywhere.
Perhaps I thought it was gripping solely because of James McAvoy’s performance. He effortlessly flits from one personality to another — often with no cuts. To go from acting as a 9-year-old boy to a righteous priestess as deftly and believably as McAvoy does is simply amazing. And yes, there is an element of cheesiness to both the character and the entire film, but it works. The atypical cinematography and stilted dialogue of “Glass” is not as easy to recognize and enjoy compared to a Wes Anderson film, but it imparts a subtle, distinct flavor to the movie. I think Shyamalan is a misunderstood director, as this style can easily be mistaken for bad writing or production. Some scenes did just feel a bit odd to me, but ultimately, they did not really detract from my enjoyment of the movie.
“Glass” was a good deal off from a perfect film, however. My main gripe was the last 20 or so minutes of the movie, when there is a big shift in the focus of the movie. I knew some sort of twist ending was coming with this being by Shyamalan, but I did not expect to feel so unsatisfied with it. Ultimately it kind of just felt shoe-horned in to end the movie, rather than being a masterful twist that presented the rest of the movie in a new light, as in “The Sixth Sense.”
As I stated earlier, however, I enjoyed the movie. I am not sure if I would recommend it to someone who has not seen “Unbreakable” or “Split,” unless they really wanted to see James McAvoy’s fantastic acting. I actually wrote a review for “Split,” at the end of which I questioned if it hailed the return of Shyamalan’s critical success. While “Glass” was generally panned by critics, it has done well with audience reviews and at the box office. I am looking forward to the next trick Shyamalan has up his sleeve.