An Epic Conclusion?
Glass | Directed by M. Night Shyamalan | Drama/Thriller | PG-13 | 2 H 9 MIN
By Marcus Ogden
M. Night Shyamalan is a fairly divisive director. While he has a handful of really capable films under his wing, he also has another handful of really flawed films. I’ve always been of the opinion that M. Night has a great sense for visuals; while his writing and his direction has faltered time and time again. A continuation of both Unbreakable and Split, Glass picks up with David Dunn (Bruce Willis) as he tracks down Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy). The two are captured and brought to a psychiatric facility to be cured of their “superhero delusions.” There, Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) plots an escape for the trio. We’ll get into the thick of it with Glass shortly, but first I want to say that I quite enjoyed both Split and Unbreakable. Split’s strength is in James McAvoy’s great performance and in its simplicity. I think if M. Night focused on more straightforward stories he’d succeed critically speaking. Unbreakable on the other hand, is a really neat exploration of the superhero genre; but was too before it’s time to know what parts of that genre to play with and the film ends leaving the audience unsatisfied; almost mid-film I’d say. I was really excited for Glass and I think for the most part it satisfies that fix for a continuation, but not without some missteps.
Firstly, the positives. I think Glass has a great visual style to it. Mundane scenes are shot very creatively, there’s a few great shots with very fluid camera movement. There’s lots of fun and clever little visual moments. The film has some solid pacing, especially when leading up to a certain scene that I’ll get to later. The other strength of the film is James McAvoy’s performance as Kevin. He’s such a fun actor to watch and he effortlessly adopts and drops several different body languages, speech patterns, and accents; It’s a real testament to his range. McAvoy and Jackson play off each other really well and it’s fun to see those two characters interact. Jackson has such a magnetic personality that really shines in his portrayal of the delusional genius Mr. Glass. It revisits all the characters in new and interesting ways. The film has some clunky dialogue and writing at points, but I think it fits in with the tone of it being very referential of comic book tropes and language. There’s a great scene where Sarah Paulson’s character, Dr. Staple, makes the trio of characters doubt their special abilities that really plays with the genre in a way I didn’t expect. Additionally, there are hints of action within the film that I thought were fun to watch.
Conversely, the return of supporting characters from the past films is great but the actors aren’t really given anything substantial to do for the bulk of it. Anya Taylor-Joy and Spencer Treat Clark both reprise their roles as well, and it would’ve been fun to see those characters interact and have a little more agency in the story than they did. The decision to bring back Charlayne Woodard, Mr. Glass’ mother, baffles me especially as she's paired up with Anya and Spencer's characters. She’s not bad by any measure, it’s just so bizarre how prominent of a role she has. Additionally, Bruce Willis is back as David Dunn, but doesn’t bring much to the table. There is a moment where he doubts his powers that would’ve been interesting to explore, but is quickly forgotten. Aside from that he’s very much just Bruce Willis as a dad. On the matter of budget, there’s a very clear restraint; with the settings all appearing to be very cheap looking and limited. The film even promises a set piece that very clearly wasn't going to happen because of the money. The largest issue, however, is the jarring ending. To avoid spoiling the film too much, the ending has a twist so sudden and baffling that completely halts the films momentum. This twist is so confusing and edited in a way that makes it very unclear as to what’s happening. I almost thought they were incorporating another M. Night film into this universe that I had not seen. Our main cast of characters is thrown aside as a whole new threat is established and then almost immediately resolved by our weaker cast of side characters. It ends as if it were an epic conclusion but there’s no room for actual emotional investment; especially since the ending sprouts up so late in the film. I almost wish the ending was left more open as to promise another film to explore that twist in greater detail, or that the twist was left out so the film could remain more focused.
Is M. Night back? I’m not so sure. The film left me at least mostly satisfied as an audience member. The direction is on point here, but the writing has its holes and its drawbacks. I think if you were left really unsatisfied by Unbreakable this film is a good conclusion to it. If you wanted more of McAvoy’s character from Split, you’re absolutely going to get what you want. If you haven’t seen Split or Unbreakable, this film has almost nothing for you unfortunately. The real enjoyment comes from revisiting those characters and seeing them interact, as well as in the refinement of its playing around with tropes and genre. It has some genuinely fun moments and some good direction, but the sudden ending along with some of the notable plot holes really break this film like glass.
Watch the Official Trailer Below