Review - 'Glass'
M. Night Shyamalan has certainly had an interesting trajectory to his filmography over the years. He burst onto the scene with the masterful The Sixth Sense, followed it up with the (in my opinion) equally masterful Unbreakable, then struck gold a third time with Signs. Shyamalan took a big swing and hit nothing but air with The Village, a film that had an excellent aesthetic and set-up, but also had two of the most baffling and disappointing twists of all time. It was all downhill from there. Then there were four definitive nails in the coffin: Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth. Cue the rebirth. On a shoe-string budget of $5 million Shyamalan directed The Visit, which surprised audiences by being an effective found-footage horror film with some genuine suspense, good writing and solid acting. Split followed, which still only cost around $10 million to produce and stunned just about everyone when it ended up being a (SPOILER) back-door sequel to Unbreakable AND decently-reviewed PLUS a huge hit at the box office. This all led up to Glass, the sequel to both Unbreakable and Split, and with Shyamalan coming off of a string of critical and financial wins, all signs pointed towards Glass delivering.
Elijah Price AKA “Glass” (Samuel L. Jackson), has been kept in a facility where doctors attempt to rehabilitate people who feel like they have powers greater than the average human. When both Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy) and David Dunn (Bruce Willis) are captured and brought to the same facility, Price sees an opportunity and begins to devise a master plan.
I’ll say this: Glass is ambitious. However, the way in which Glass is presented and the manner in which characters are treated is ultimately deeply unsatisfying. It’s immediately clear that Shyamalan had an idea for how he wanted to conclude the stories from both Split and Unbreakable, but it’s also clear that that idea must have worked much better on paper because this film doesn’t hold up under any scrutiny at all. There are gaping plot-holes, characters that do and say things that aren’t logical and scenes that are meant to be rousing but lack punch because of how ridiculously they are set up. It’s as if Shyamalan were playing chess, only the pieces could be moved wherever he wants without any regard to the rules of the game, only so he could more easily reach that desired check-mate.
What Glass does manage to do, and it’s at the expense of having a story that makes any lick of sense, is deliver a message. And a good one at that. That’s maybe the thing that saves this film from being a total catastrophe, and instead relegated to middle-of-the-road Shyamalan fare where The Village and Lady in the Water reside. I actually liked the ending to this film quite a bit, even though it to, presents it’s own can of wriggling plot-hole worms. The movie has some interesting things to say about the nature of super heroes/super villains and what a world with them might be like if they were real, and how authority figures would handle them.
The performances in Glass are also a bit of a mixed bag. Faring the best is Samuel L. Jackson as the titular Glass. He’s not in the film for at least the first third of the run-time, and doesn’t speak much at all for the second. That said, his eyes and demeanor throughout the film are so expressive and even though his character has committed truly evil acts in his past, I still felt for him. James McAvoy is also great as Kevin AKA “The Horde”, and his ability to change to swap between personalities is even more impressive than it was in the Split, though I will say that Shyamalan seems to really like to exploit his talent here a bit too much. There are at least one-too-many scenes where McAvoy is simply putting on a display just to show audiences how good he is. Less would have been more. Overall, though, two completely solid performances in lead roles.
Then we get to Bruce Willis as David Dunn AKA “The Overseer”. He’s not bad here, but he really seems to be sleep-walking through this performance. I never felt like this was the same man from Unbreakable. In fact, he’s more believable as that character when he’s wearing the hood and his face is hidden and all you see is his silhouette. In addition to this, the arc of David Dunn does absolutely nothing for me and his role in this film’s final act could devastate fans of his character. Anya Taylor-Joy returns from her role in Split as Casey Cooke, and I’ll say that she does the best she can with a character that is much more poorly realized here than she was before. Sarah Paulson plays Dr. Ellie Staple, and while she’s a fine actress, I didn’t find her character memorable in the least. Finally we have Spencer Treat Clark returning as Joseph Dunn, David Dunn’s son. He plays a bit of a side-kick role to his dad, and while I like the idea in concept, I felt that his line-delivery was wooden and disingenuous.
Aesthetically, Glass is…acceptable. Shyamalan is a naturally gifted filmmaker with a great eye for cinematography, so if anything, I was expecting this film to look great. It does at times, but I think it is let down a bit by its location, which for the most part takes places in this make-shift mansion/hospital facility, and there’s really only so much you can do with bland white corridors and bland white rooms. There are still some truly great shots, particularly one where all three of the main characters are in a large room together that has this un-nerving pinkish hue to it. It’s a good-looking film, but if you were expecting it to be on the level of something like Unbreakable or The Sixth Sense, you’re going to feel a bit let down.
All things said, Glass is a film that will be intensely polarizing. On a more positive note; the film feels genuine and is clearly an untainted M. Night Shyamalan vision, which can make for a fascinating watch at times. The choices made here are bold, but the film sacrifices logic to make its points, when in my opinion it didn’t have to. Had the script been worked on a little bit more and been passed under a few more eyes before being given the green-light, this could have been a much more cohesive and satisfying picture. In it’s current form Glass is an immense disappointment, albeit one that still provokes constructive conversation.