M.Night Shyamalan’s films are often incredibly divisive and it’s likely that Glass will be his most divisive yet. The converging of Unbreakable and Split sees Shyamalan working to all his strengths as a filmmaker – and his weaknesses. It’s a movie where greatness and silliness collide and you might often have both in the same scene.
The film opens 19 years after Unbreakable, with Bruce Willis’ David Dunn (now known as The Overseer) continuing his vigilante campaign on the streets of Philadelphia. He’s aided by his now adult son (Spencer Treat Clark) and the duo are tracking James McAvoy’s The Beast, who continues to kidnap and kill teenage girls. After a showdown, The Overseer and The Beast are captured by Sarah Paulson’s mysterious Doctor Staple. Staple’s specialty is treating people with an ever-growing disorder – the belief that they’re superheroes. Also an inmate at the institution is Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price (aka Mr Glass), the criminal mastermind who caused the 2000 train crash which led to Dunn discovering his superhero powers. Staple’s treatment of the trio begins and it will end with some unexpected results.
On a tonal level, Glass feels a little disjointed. Much of the pace is on a par with the slow deliberation of 2000’s Unbreakable, while the action fuelled finale is a little more like 2016’s Split. It’s effectively a character piece that goes a bit crazy at the end. Speaking of the end, Shyamalan is a filmmaker known for having a little surprise left for the finale and Glass has revelation after revelation and twist after twist. It might be a bit too much for some, but I quite liked that he was tying-up loose ends and making the trilogy come full circle. The best plot threads are those from Unbreakable and I could happily have watched Wills and Clark as a crimefighting duo. Willis is the best he’s been in years here, delivering a textured performance which offers glimpses of why he became one of the world’s biggest movie stars. His scenes with Clark are wonderful and it’s a shame that this isn’t a straight-up sequel to Unbreakable and not a superhero mash-up. James McAvoy has the showiest role, with his multiple personalities but the changes are a little silly and much too frequent. It gets to the point where you would prefer to have him play a character for more than 60 seconds. Jackson’s Mr Glass continues to be the plot lynchpin, although he is literally out-of-it for the first two-thirds of the movie.
I never fully bought the King Kong/Beauty And The Beast relationship that James MvAvoy has with Anya Taylor-Joy’s Casey, the surviving victim from his crimes in Split. It’s a touch too neat and there’s no real reason for it. Glass also a suffers from excessive plot feeding, showing how the film’s plot machinations are ripped from the pages of comic books. That might have been necessary when Unbreakable was released in 2000 – but in 2019 everyone knows the basic tropes of the superhero genre.
Entertaining and well put together, Glass is definitely worth seeing if you enjoyed Unbreakable and/or Split. It’s not as good as the former but it’s better than the latter and it’s great to see Bruce Willis back in the green poncho. Fans of M.Night Shyamalan will have much to debate and haters will have much to hate, but you can’t deny that Shyamalan has delivered a movie that plays to its own tune – and that needs to be admired.