Glass (2019)

Glass official theatrical poster.jpgDirector: M. Night Shyamalan
Running Time: 129 Minutes
Starring: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, Adam David Thompson, Luke Kirby, M. Night Shyamalan


After returning to his low key roots with the help of producer Jason Blum, M. Night Shyamalan revealed his intent with 2017's Split, as its ending revealed to the story to be a super-villain origin, and a stealth sequel to 2000's criminally underrated Unbreakable. The next step is to unite the genres, have the previously established characters crossover, and close off the stories, resulting in an ambitious tale that largely works.

Nearly two decades after embracing his abilities, David Dunn (Bruce Willis) works to protect people from criminals, under the alias of "The Overseer". His latest encounter involves Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a man with 24 personalities, the most powerful being a serial killer named "The Beast". Their confrontation leads to their capture and incarceration in a mental institution, where resides Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), David's enemy known as "Mister Glass".

At the time of its release, Unbreakable was a vastly different beast in the cinematic landscape. Comic-book films had largely fallen out of fashion with Batman & Robin, and Blade and X-Men were as good as it got for audiences. Nearly two decades later, and the genre has boomed to see an onslaught of characters get their cinematic dues, and audiences become savvy to the history and tropes. So while the discussion of such things were novel in 2000, they come off as needlessly explained today, and a tad condescending at times, even when Shyamalan embraces some fun tropes that could be traced back to any number of comic books.

Considering his late career has been full of disappointments, it's a marvel when Bruce Willis actually tries to give a decent performance, and he's managed to do just that here. The years are evidently taking their toll on David Dunn, shown in Willis' subdued performance, as he finds himself embracing his heroic protector persona. The counterpoint to him lays in James McAvoy, who's much more showy in embodying his multitude of personas, but changes between them so effortlessly. More than just a different voice, there's a clear difference in mannerisms, making the changes entirely believable, while selling the horrific murderer that is his main role of The Beast. Rounding off the trio is Elijah Price, a comic book aficionado with brittle bones, whose quest to find real life heroes has led to vicious measures. A quietly calculating figure willing to put on a facade, Samuel L. Jackson does impressive work in the role, as one believes he is genuinely thinking many steps ahead of everyone else, rather than being expected to believe it just because.

The largest character addition, Sarah Paulson puts her all into the role of Dr. Ellie Staple, a psychiatrist who tries to convince these characters that their heroics could all be a mental illness. It's an interesting prospect to take a superhero film into, but considering all that has been seen in the prior two instalments, it comes off as a way to pad out the runtime, leaving the audience to feel as though they're miles ahead of the characters.

Considering the variety of genres previously inhabited in this series, the melding of them works pretty well, as the low key heroics and horror elements sell what works about these characters, while sitting alongside each other quire well. Less strong is their supporting figures, as Spencer Treat Clark, Anya Taylor-Joy and Charlayne Woodard do well, but are given little of impact to do. Also, the traditional M Night cameo is a cringe worthy waste of time.

The first two acts deliver interesting prospects for these characters, told in an intriguing manner, which makes it a shame how chaotic the final act is. Fascinating ideas are brought to the table, while offering a commentary on the medium's well worn tropes, and previously established aspects are recontexualised by the films end. But it's messily delivered, often feeling rushed with little room to breath. Many a good reveal have the seeds sown prior to it, which proves rewarding upon rewatches, but this one comes off as Shyamalan going "gotcha" just because he has to get one over on the audience.

Working more often than not, Glass is a great finale to an unconventional trilogy. For all it's faults, the result is an interesting combination of disparate films.

Comments