Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson
Synopsis: Security guard David Dunn uses his supernatural abilities to track Kevin Wendell Crumb, a disturbed man who has twenty-four personalities.
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, and language)
Release Date: January 18, 2019
It's been 19 years since the world was introduced to David Dunn (Bruce Willis), a seemingly ordinary man who was miraculously the sole survivor of a deadly train accident. Since that day, we've learned that he's actually a real-life superhero. No, not the superhero that flies or can lift a cruise ship or was born on another planet. A superhero whose abilities are very small extensions of normal human abilities. A superhero whose weakness is the extremely common substance that covers over 70% of the earth's surface---water. This is the new type of grounded superhero audiences were introduced to in M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable, a film that has since received a cult following from its subversion of the traditional superhero genre. Though audiences were pleading for a sequel for years, they finally got it in (what I believe) was the director's best twist since The Sixth Sense--a sequel through a film disguised as a standalone horror-thriller named Split. Split's superhero, Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), suffered the psychological opposite of Dunn in being mentally broken due to the childhood abuse at the hands of his mother. Having developed multiple personalities to cope with the abuse, including "The Beast," a personality allowing for superhuman strength and even the ability to climb on walls, Kevin is the perfect antithesis for Dunn's character, as Shyamalan set up a showdown in the third and final chapter in his surprise trilogy, Glass.
Glass is a film that has its faults but also has some tremendously executed bright spots and ideas. It's a mixed bag of sorts--one that leaves you frustrated at times but then turns around and makes you relish in what you're seeing on screen. The frustrations come from certain situations and chain of events that force the viewer to suspend some disbelief--something that rarely occurred in the director's last film. The film, which is Shyamalan's longest in his career at 2 hr. 9 min, also isn't as tightly paced as Split, as certain scenes drag at times and slow down the tension. The film does eventually pick up the pace, however, especially as it approaches the final act.
Ultimately though, the positives for Glass outweigh the negatives. The first of these positives is James McAvoy, who once again steals every scene he's in, delivering another dynamic performance, as he's funny, creepy, and brutal all throughout the film. Shyamalan smartly lets him show off even more personalities this time around, while also bringing back fan-favorite personalities like the nine-year-old Hedwig. But McAvoy also brings levels of sympathy and empathy to the role in this film, as Kevin Wendell Crumb, the true individual behind all these identities, gets a bit more screen time--including some with Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), the similarly broken girl who the Beast spared at the end of Split. One can really feel for Kevin--this emotionally torn character, who didn't ask for any of the injustices brought upon him in his life, but nevertheless has to suffer through it all.
But the positives to Glass don't stop with McAvoy's simultaneously electric and human performance. The film also possesses some truly deep ideas and originality relating to our inner abilities as humans--that your abilities manifest from your thoughts about who you are and what you're capable of. This idea can extend to something very simple--someone who doesn't think they can ice skate (or at least ice skate well) will probably never go out and attempt it or seek out training for it. But someone who believes they can do it will seek it out, practice, and eventually acquire the ability--an ability they previously didn't know they had. It's a powerful message, one that fits perfectly in Shyamalan's grounded superhero world, and one that will hopefully be on audience's minds as they exit the theater.
Directionally speaking, Shyamalan once again delivers some very artful shots, just as he did in both of the previous films. Motifs of glass and reflections are everywhere, and the cinematography plays well to each of the individual superheroes. The most powerful shot in the film is probably the tracking shot of Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson) as, with a satisfied expression, he wheels his way with the camera down a hallway while the Beast is beating up security guards out of focus in the background. Overall, the cinematography doesn't reach the same levels of some of Shyamalan's previous work, but it's still very noteworthy and even striking at times.
While it's a step below the solo films that came before it, Glass is still a very memorable, entertaining, and thoughtful conclusion to Shyamalan's trilogy. It's ending has already been widely debated amongst fans, some praising it, others despising it, but the fact that it has people talking is an accomplishment in itself. Shyamalan has always subverted people's expectations throughout his career, so it's no surprise that he does the same here. I for one am satisfied with the conclusion, as it sets up other possibilities while also definitively closing the chapter. The only question I have is, what's next for the director?
Written by Anthony Watkins, January 21, 2019