Friends, try to think back to 2000 when M. Night Shyamalan was set to release Unbreakable. As crazy as it may seem now with trailers that seem tailor-made to reveal nearly the entirely film before we have a chance to see it in theaters, we had NO CLUE what the film really was about. Beyond the fact that Bruce Willis was involved in a horrific train accident and survived…and Samuel L. Jackson’s character appeared to know more about the incident.
It wasn’t until I was sitting in the theater on opening night that I realized Shyamalan had made a film about one of my favorite subjects – superheroes. In the same year that Fox released the first X-Men movie, M. Night Shyamalan delivered one of my favorite superhero films of all time. Nearly 20 years later we now have Glass – the third film in Shyamalan’s ‘grounded’ universe of heroes and villains.
To cut to the chase, is it better than Unbreakable or the surprise 2016 sequel Split? No, but it’s not trying to be either – it is taking the storylines from those two films to the next level while still being true to what came before in terms of the tone of the previous movies. If you think this is going to be M. Night Shyamalan’s version of The Avengers you are going to be sorely disappointed – having said that though in regards to the story it’s still very much a game changer!
“Do you know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world, to not know why you’re here. That’s – that’s just an awful feeling.”
Before I briefly dip into the non-spoiler review for Glass – just in case you aren’t aware or what Unbreakable and Split are about, I’ll do a quick if spoiler-filled summary. In the 2000 film we are introduced to David Dunn (Willis) who after miraculously surviving a horrific train accident learns he might just be superhuman – that he is unbreakable. This journey of self-discovery, Dunn realizing what he is missing in his life – a feeling of actual worth, is helped along by Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), who is attempting to find the very same thing. Elijah suffers from brittle bone disease – a hard knock can literally break his bones and so in his youth he found refuge in comic books.
Besides appearing to be stronger than your typical Human, Dunn learns he also possesses an ability to ‘see’ someone’s sins by touching them. As Unbreakable ends we are left with an origin story for both the hero, in this case Dunn as well as his nemesis Elijah or as we learn the kids used to call him on the playground – Mr. Glass.
“Those who have not been torn have no value in themselves and no place in this world! They are asleep!”
In 2016 when Split was released it was rightfully sold as a horror film – with it’s connection to Unbreakable not revealed until literally the end of the movie…although there was a sly connection that if you blinked you missed it. It concerns a young man named Kevin Wendell Crumb (Brilliantly played by James McAvoy) who suffers from dissociative identity disorder – with 23 personalities that vie for control of the light, which of course means being in charge of Kevin’s body.
Split is most definitely a horror film, not just because of the emergence of a 24th personality – a violently and inhuman presence called The Beast but because it tackles the very real life horror of child abuse. In Split the story concerns how ‘Dennis’ one of Kevin’s 23 personalities has abducted a trio of teenage girls – locking them up in an underground lair as offerings for The Beast. Although due to having similar abusive pasts – The Beast spares the life of one of the young girl’s – Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy).
“This is not a cartoon. This is the real world.
Which bring us to Glass, the culmination of Shyamalan’s take on a comic book universe. I feel that is an appropriate description as while each film has had it’s own style – Unbreakable is more of a mystery/drama and Split as I’ve mentioned is a horror film, with Glass it’s reached a point where it embraces it’s comic book styling. We learn that David Dunn along with help from his Son is now patrolling the city, trying to help where he can, punishing the wicked physically in a vigilante style – earning himself a nickname in the papers as the Overseer.
Kevin Wendell Crumb containing all 24 personalities (The Horde) is loose in the city, once again abducting young girls and letting The Beast have it’s day – in an attempt to cleanse the World of those who haven’t experienced the same pain as Kevin.
When Dunn and Kevin cross paths it leads to them being taken into custody and placed in a mental institution, one that happens to house Elijah Price – so severely drugged he is in a catatonic state – in an attempt to stop him from using his mental genius to escape.
At this facility we are introduced to Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) who has been granted three days to reach a breakthrough in her research with these three individuals – the fact that a psychosis has been growing in the World with people believing they are superhuman. It is Dr. Staple’s hope she can make Dunn, Kevin, and even Elijah see they are simply suffering from delusions brought about by past physical and mental traumas.
It should go without saying that for someone like Mr. Glass who believes in his heart that he is not only special but there are many others and they deserve to step into the light…he doesn’t care for Dr. Staple’s diagnosis. Which is naturally how Elijah begins to set the game board using not just Dunn, Kevin, and Staple as pieces – but even his own Mother (Charlayne Woodard), Casey Cooke, and David’s Son – Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark).
Let me tackle the high points of Glass: I think it’s safe to say that James McAvoy most assuredly steals the show like he did in Split – not just altering his voice for the various personalities but even physically ‘changing’ for each one. However I must stress that everyone in this ensemble picture delivers the goods – especially Jackson considering he might very well have the least amount of lines in the film.
I also want to give a tip of the hat to West Dylan Thordson’s fantastic score – it marries with M. Night Shyamalan’s visuals perfectly. Last but not least is Glass is a worthy conclusion to…at the moment…the first trilogy set in this particular film universe.
Glass is far from perfect and for myself, my minor quibbles all come to bear in the third act of the film. There are a couple of moments where characters – not exactly out of character – say something so exposition heavy that you will most assuredly be taken aback. In addition to the ending itself – which I can’t cover of course – it feels like maybe a couple minutes of the film got trimmed where it shouldn’t have. It didn’t derail the film for me – I just couldn’t help but feel that it marred the finished product when all was said and done.
In closing, if you are a fan of Unbreakable and Split I have no doubt you too will be entertained by Glass!