With a multitude of superhero flicks hitting our screens every year, it is quite refreshing to see a new take on the genre, albeit a slightly messy and confusing take. The master of the surprise twist, M. Night Shyamalan has finally brought the much-awaited Unbreakable and Split sequel to our eyeballs, but through all of the magnificent performances, cinematography and spectacle, it feels kind of anti-climactic…or like an absolute masterpiece…or a bit of a mish-mash…or…well, all of them and much more.
Masterfully directed by Shyamalan, Glass opens shortly after the events of Split and 15 years after Unbreakable. In the third instalment of what has been dubbed the ‘Eastrail 177’ trilogy, we follow David Dunn/The Overseer (Bruce Willis) as he tries to stop Kevin Wendall Crumb/The Horde (James McAvoy) from his recent rampage. They are both quickly apprehended by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychologist specialised in treating patients that believe they are superhuman, who takes them to a mental institution to join Elijah Price/Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) for treatment. And saying anything more would probably go into spoiler territory.
Going into the screening, Glass was one of my most anticipated films of the year. I am a huge fan of M. Night Shyamalan’s work (most of it at least) and both Unbreakable and Split are masterpieces in their own rights. So, with that in mind, when the credits finally rolled, I felt slightly confused and unsure of how I felt. One could say that I felt…Split (yes, this is the most original pun ever made on the internet).
Now let me make it clear that this is an extremely well-crafted film. From the magnificent use of colours to some of the absolutely astounding shot decisions, you can tell that this movie is M. Night’s baby and that every detail has been thoroughly thought through. There are many themes that flow through the film such as the power of self-belief and consequence, with the latter seemingly driving a lot of the decisions concerning the action scenes throughout.
If for nothing else, it is definitely worth a trip to the cinema to see the performances, mainly that of James McAvoy, who absolutely excels here as he once again showcases his acting abilities. Over the course of the two-hour runtime, we get to at least glimpse around 20 different personalities played by McAvoy. It is truly a wonder to witness with the actor’s entire body language, posture and even eyes seeming to change as each distinct personality comes to the forefront.
Not only does McAvoy put in the work for his performance, but both Willis and Jackson are fantastic in their respective roles as if they had never left these characters. Although the film does focus heavily on The Horde, there is still plenty of time for Overseer and Mr. Glass to steal the limelight and it is just a delight to relish in these three characters (and actors) being on-screen together.
Unfortunately, I do have a couple of niggles with Glass that I just can’t seem to shake, no matter how much I want to absolutely love it. The main one being: the script. Ever since Shyamalan burst into Hollywood with The Sixth Sense, he has written every script that he has directed. The rollercoaster ride that is his early career is common knowledge, having his first four films ranging from exceptional to pretty darn good, and then falling flat with four poorly received movies.
A lot of people have pointed to the pressures of success as to why his later films weren’t as well written and after seeing Glass, I believe that may have been a slight issue once again. The story is full of so many different ideas that it often gets bogged down and struggles to keep all of the plot threads together. This could also be the consequence of developing this film over the span of nineteen years, which I imagine involved multiple rewrites and new ideas being thrown around. Taking a step back and looking at the film as a whole, it does suffer a bit of an identity crisis.
Part of that crisis comes in the form of a very meta story thread, which I won’t go into detail about here, but I believe could be the deciding factor as to whether audiences enjoy this film. Shyamalan uses this thread to deconstruct the superhero genre but doesn’t seem to be able to decide whether to subvert the tropes or lean into them, which once again comes across as the result of rewrites over the years.
The more I think about Glass, the more I think that I really enjoyed it, although this uncertainty is really unsettling. Judgement aside, this film deserves to succeed at the box office due in part to the care and consideration that went into this production as well as how big of a swing the film is, regardless of whether it hits or misses for you. I think I will need to re-watch the movie around twice more before I truly make my mind up; hopefully allowing myself to unpack as much detail as possible.
For that reason, I’m going to sit just above the middle in my rating, but I would highly recommend taking a trip to witness Glass on the big screen. Just maybe let me know how you feel when it’s over.
Jordan Duguid | ★★★½
Glass is released in UK and US cinemas Friday 18th January 2019.
Drama, Mystery, Thriller | 15 | USA, 2019 | 18 January 2019 | Universal Pictures | Dir. M. Night Shyamalan | James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Paulson