M. Night Shyamalan has a divisive filmography to say the least. His efforts range from Academy Award-nominated to the laughing stock of Hollywood. His latest film, Glass, perfectly embodies the extreme duality of what we have come to expect from the filmmaker’s work: fascinating ideas burdened by questionable decision-making.
Let’s backup a moment.
Glass is the hotly-anticipated conclusion to an unconventional trilogy of superhero films that Shyamalan kicked off 19 years ago with Unbreakable, in which Bruce Willis’s David Dunn discovers he possesses superhuman abilities thanks to the dastardly deeds of Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price, an evil mastermind with supernaturally brittle bones who prefers to be called Mr. Glass. Split introduces James McAvoy’s “The Beast,” one of 23 personalities who collectively refer to themselves as “The Horde” and possess the mind and body of one Kevin Wendell Crumb.
Glass takes place 19 years after Unbreakable and just three weeks after Split. David Dunn is on the hunt for a serial abductor who has been kidnapping teenage girls in and around Philadelphia. When he bumps into Kevin Crumb on the street, David’s visions tell him Kevin is the culprit. After a brief throwdown, both are easily apprehended and committed to a psychiatric hospital under the careful watch of Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a shrink who specializes in treating patients who believe they are superheroes.
Meanwhile, Mr. Glass has been institutionalized all these years, perpetually sedated and near-catatonic. Then, like the Joker in The Dark Knight Returns, Mr. Glass’ spirits are rejuvenated by the arrival of Dunn and Crumb and it is not long until the scheming genius is up to his old ways.
To his credit, Shyamalan has so far presented an ambitious vision with a uniquely subversive take on the superhero cinematic universe and he follows that vision through in Glass, which feels like the next logical step in the progression of this fascinating overarching narrative and somehow manages to unite the differing tones of the previous two films.
I’d be remiss if I did not mention James McAvoy’s standout performance. Once again the actor is stunning in the role of “The Horde.” I was captivated watching him seamlessly snap between any two of the 20 different personas he portrays in this film, even if sometimes Shyamalan likes to over-indulge the character.
Night also spends too much time indulging in repetitive, overly-long monologues that tediously and blatantly re-explain major themes or large chunks of exposition. The biggest offender here is Paulson’s Dr. Staple, who consistently bogs down the film each time she feels compelled to reiterate either her responsibilities, her patients’ shared delusions, or the multiple reveals that hit later in the third act.
For every thrilling twist or turn in Glass, there is an obviously telegraphed beat or poorly written and paced spout of exposition that made my eyes roll. Still, Shyamalan refreshingly rearranges the tropes we have come to know and expect from superhero movies in the time since Unbreakable into his own quirky cinematic world that is entirely its own experience, for better and worse.
Those are my overall thoughts on Glass. What do you think, do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts on the film in the comments down below!