Updated: Jan 24, 2019
For a film that has been trashed as a potential “career killer” and an unsatisfying note to what is shockingly a trilogy, the entire press in Atlanta seemed to trudge into the screening with little to no expectations. And when I eventually came out of the theater, with all 129 minutes fulfilled, my impressions of the film couldn’t be any more shocking. Glass is a wonderful film that takes bold, new risks with its characters that heightens its thematic material. As a filmmaker, Shyamalan proves that he interested in not just developing a fantastic roster of characters but also divulging a revealing story that has a conclusion that leans heavily on integrated themes and symbolism. And by the very end, Shyamalan also proves that if it benefits the story, he will heartily take bold decisions with his already-loved cast of characters, from James McAvoy’s devilishly charming performance as Kevin Wendell Crumb to returning Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson from Unbreakable.
In this regard, it’s hard not to see why Glass could turn off so many fans and critics and cause them to eject far too soon. But in my personal experience, I found the film immensely enjoyable and satisfying even if its start to feel cluttered as it heads into the third act. Shyamalan proves once again that he is a master of suspense storytelling, blending dynamic sequences with his three main leads that are fascinating to watch in a profound way. And just the sheer shock and joy of seeing Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, and James McAvoy in their iconic roles back on the screen is more than enough to warrant a watch. Burdened by a stiff middle portion of endless monologues from Sarah Paulson, Glass propels itself past its naysayers into something new and fresh with ideas.
Taking place after both Unbreakable and Split, train crash survivor David Dunn is a local vigilante, using his abilities or “gifts,” as repeatedly labelled by Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr. Glass, to contribute to society as best as he can. This path leads him to James McAvoy’s Kevin Wendell Crumb, a haunting man who can portray up to twenty-four personalities. Saying anymore would potentially ruin the experience, since Glass is chockful of surprises for every Shyamalan fan. However, although it certainly has tricks to show up its sleeves, the real backbone of the storyline is rather misguided and pompous.
The majority of the 129-minute feature is spent at one location…the Riverhead Asylum, most likely due to budget restrictions. And such a restriction is clearly shown. For a film that is projected to open with an astounding 50 million on its opening weekend, the fact that Universal couldn’t afford pumping anything more than 20 million into its production budget perplexes me. And even more than serving as a confusing decision, it damages the film significantly. It constrains Shyamalan into having to constantly cycle through philosophical monologue sequences from Sarah Paulson as Dr. Ellie Staple.
These sequences aren’t anything unique or dynamic. They are stiff, under baked, and each line is derivative of the last one. Halfway through the film, she had quickly maintained a position as the most frustratingly dull character in the entire film, a strange combination given the unique qualitative perks that each of the three main leads have.
But when addressing the other performances, outside of Paulson who did respectfully do the best she could with the material provided, the cast is fantastic. The clear stand-out is once again James McAvoy who continues his stride of dark humor and creepy moments of tension-based horror with his twenty-four personalities. It will surely rank as one of the best performances of the year and will hopefully make up for his snubbing for 2017’s Split. Just his presence in a scene is felt and McAvoy has truly disappeared behind this role.
As for Unbreakable stars Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis, both have had a somewhat declining career as of late, with both being resorted to overly-glorified action flicks. But it’s clear that both of them still have the acting chops that made them so iconic in the first place. Willis may not have much to do in the film, outside of being a “reluctant hero” to sway the audience’s perspective. But he still has a reminiscent magic that is remarkably similar to that of his work in Unbreakable.
Samuel L. Jackson brings a slyness to the character, a trait made all the more apparent by the fact that he barely mutters a word for the first half of the film. From his facial expression to subtle motions with his eyes fluttering, Jackson never hesitates when delivering maculate detail, details that are enhanced by a stunning use of cinematography.
In regards to the film’s score, consistently a strong point in Shyamalan’s films, it’s brilliant and completely effective. Using ticking percussion comparable to Hans Zimmer’s work in 2017’s Dunkirk, it helps maintain the slow burn that the script has at its essence. And outside of the conclusion, where the score unfortunately devolves into a standard, comic-book third act soundtrack, composer West Dylan Thordson does an excellent job of complementing the story and its engaging messages and events, without ever outshining it.
Ultimately, in the end, Shyamalan’s Glass is a risky gamble that will surely not to be everybody’s liking. Its ending will certainly leave some fans disappointed, as Glass neither is or tries to be the film that so many people expected it to be. Underplaying its traditional superhero roots and exploring the psychological aspects of these characters is fascinating however, and Shyamalan as both a writer and director handles it masterfully, delivering stunning sequences that may be cluttered with an over-reliance on monologues and the ignorance of the concept of “show not tell.”
Score: 8.2 out of 10
M. Night Shyamalan brings together the narratives of two of his standout originals—2000’s Unbreakable, from Touchstone, and 2016’s Split, from Universal—in one explosive, all-new comic-book thriller: Glass. From Unbreakable, Bruce Willis returns as David Dunn as does Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price, known also by his pseudonym Mr. Glass. Joining from Split are James McAvoy, reprising his role as Kevin Wendell Crumb and the multiple identities who reside within, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, the only captive to survive an encounter with The Beast. Following the conclusion of Split, Glass finds Dunn pursuing Crumb’s superhuman figure of The Beast in a series of escalating encounters, while the shadowy presence of Price emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.
GLASS hits theaters on January 18th, 2019.