Synopsis: Security guard David Dunn uses his supernatural abilities to track Kevin Wendell Crumb, a disturbed man who has twenty-four personalities.
Stars: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Spencer Treat Clark
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Running Length: 129 minutes
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review: Seeing that this is a spoiler-free zone I have to say up front that while you’re not going to get much in the way of big reveals when it comes to Glass, it’s impossible to talk about the movie at all if you haven’t seen the two films that came before. So if you haven’t seen Unbreakable or Split and don’t want to know key plot points, now is the time to turn back.
Okay…let’s get on with it.
Director M. Night Shyamalan is famous for his twist endings that send the movie and audience into a tail spin right at the conclusion, calling into question everything we’ve been watching for the previous two hours. At first, it was a fun parlor game to predict what he had up his sleeve until it became evident that the twist was both the most interesting thing about the film and its downfall. At the end of Split, Shyamalan lobbed a soft curveball at us before the credits but then laid out a whopper when he brought back Bruce Willis’ character from Unbreakable for a brief scene that suggested the two movies had a common bond that would become evident in a future film.
With the unexpected success of Split (not to mention 2015’s scary romp The Visit) Shyamalan was able to parlay his renewed good standing in Hollywood and his hefty profits into capping off a trilogy supposedly always at the back of his brain. That seems like a convenient way to pat yourself on the back in hindsight but, okay, let’s just go with the claim that Shyamalan always imagined he’d make Unbreakable, Split, and Glass as a trio of films that suggested real life superheroes and mega villains truly did walk among us.
So where did we leave off with the previous films? At the end of Unbreakable, David Dunn (Willis, Looper) had just accepted his developing powers that gave him the ability to see the bad deeds of others just by touch while his body proved to be indestructible. At the same time, the mysterious Mr. Glass, (Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight) with a rare disorder that caused his bones to break with the greatest of ease, showed his true colors as a master criminal that orchestrated multiple catastrophic events in an attempt to find a man like Dunn to be his foe. Shyamalan’s late-breaking twist gave way to an abysmal wrap-up via on screen text that did no one any favors.
The last time we saw Kevin, James McAvoy’s (Trance) disturbed Split character with dissociative identity disorder, he had transformed into a 24th personality known as The Beast. Though his kidnapping victim Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy, The VVitch) managed to escape, The Beast has joined with the rest of the angrier personalities within Kevin to form The Horde and has continued to hunt young girls that are “unbroken”. Casey’s recovery has included fleeing her abusive uncle, taking up residence with a foster family, and attending the same school as Dunn’s son, Joseph ( Spencer Treat Clark, The Town that Dreaded Sundown)
The movie begins with Dunn doling out vigilante justice as The Overseer in a very Michael Myers stalker-ish way, with his ultimate goal to hunt down The Horde and find a new batch of missing girls. When Dunn and Kevin are captured by the ambitious Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson, 12 Years a Slave) and brought to a remote psychiatric hospital for testing, Dunn is reunited with Mr. Glass who has been waiting over a decade to initiate the next phase in his evil plan.
I wish I could say that Glass is the amped-up finale it’s being advertised as but sadly it’s a movie that coasts instead of soars. While the first third of the film creates some genuine interest as we see the characters from previous films crossover, it quickly devolves into talky repetition that feels indulgent on several levels. Shyamalan can’t quite get out of his own way where the crux of the story lies, falling into a black hole of superhero mythos he can’t adequately tie into the action onscreen. The finale especially feels like a convergence of so many ideas that aren’t fully realized, making it all feel slightly half-baked and not as satisfying as I would have liked.
While I genuinely like all the actors in the movie, I struggle with praise for any of them here. McAvoy has the showiest role…and he knows it. Wheras in Split the shifts between Kevin’s multiple personalities seemed like an actor exercising considerable control in delineation of characters, in Glass we get to meet even more of the alters and that starts to trip up McAvoy early on. With Shyamalan giving him far too much room to play, the performance feels overworked. You’d be forgiven if you forget Willis is in the movie, he’s so low-key Paulson practically has to shake him awake in their scenes and he outright disappears for a long stretch in the middle section of the film. Jackson seems to having more fun than the rest, if only Mr. Glass had been giving any new defining character trait in this film…but it’s just a repeat of work that’s been done 19 years ago.
This is all too bad because the film is rather well made thanks to thoughtfully constructed scenes by cinematographer Mike Gioulakis. Let it also never be said that Shyamalan doesn’t fill the screen with visual clues for audiences to pick up on along the way. Even working with a smaller budget, Shyamalan has stretched his coin with intelligence, spending the money on important visual effects and keeping the location shooting to a minimum. What they didn’t spend money on? A decent make-up artist. Poor Charlayne Woodard looks like she’s melting under her old-age make-up as Jackson’s mother – we never forget the actress is five years younger than that actor playing her son.
As with most Shyamalan films, the filmmaker rounds out Glass with a coda to send audiences out with more to think about and I have to give some credit to the director for finding a way to get us back in his corner right at the very end. It’s not quite enough to make the movie a true success but it doesn’t shatter the film experience completely.