M. Night Shyamalan’s directorial travels have been fascinating, to say the least. Once hailed as a filmmaker worthy of being dubbed “the second coming of Spielberg”, a series of twists and fantastical ideas weren’t enough to sustain the public as he came crashing down to Earth quite spectacularly following back-to-back-to-back misfires that failed to land with both critics and audiences.
After making good with the found-footage thriller The Visit in 2015, many deemed Shyamalan back in their good graces with 2016’s Split which, without nary a word uttered, backed itself onto his 2000 offering Unbreakable, creating his own twisted superhero universe in the process. And much like Split‘s multiple personality-afflicted Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy, who cycles through countless personalities with astounding precision), Shyamalan is a creature honing his own horde of specific quirks – plot twists, questionable dialogue, committed performances – all fighting each other to make the final cut.
With Glass, Shyamalan’s third-act thriller in his quietly-kept superhero trilogy, the good and the bad (though thankfully not The Happening) are collaborating in equal measure. Assuming you’re familiar with both the aforementioned Unbreakable and Split, Glass skips any “previously on…” montages and hones in on Unbreakable‘s unlikely hero David Dunn (Bruce Willis), now dubbed The Overseer by the local media, as he plays the role of vigilante, taking down the troublemakers of Philadelphia whilst searching for McAvoy’s maniacal personality The Horde.
Managing to track him down but unable to follow through on action, David and The Horde’s psychotic Beast personality are subdued in the midst of a showdown by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who brings them to her psychiatric facility hoping to achieve her singular goal of convincing them that their supposed super-human abilities are more a mental manifestation rather than a physical possibility.
Unbreakable‘s villain Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) – first name Mister, last name Glass – who’s been existing in a catatonic state since that film’s end is also sharing padded cell space alongside the two, and though we’re aware all three will break free of their confines, just how remains to be seen, and in true Shyamalan fashion it’s best if you aren’t privy to the information and witness for yourself.
Whilst there’s much to say on Shyamalan’s own unique take on the superhero formula, his decision to subvert expectations of the genre and play with what would make someone want to act in such a way – as opposed to simply physically watching them – is where he truly excels. This is a supremely un-Marvel-like movie, detailing the story beats we’ve come to expect in a rather grounding manner. Having said that though, the writer/director fails to ground himself, overtly showcasing the love for his own medium with an emphasis on explanation.
As much as Shyamalan toys with his material, and I gather both the film’s showdown between its lead trio and final climactic send-off will irk many a viewer, it’s difficult to not admire him for his attempt to give us something so familiar, so textbook, in a package we’re unprepared for.
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 (M) is screening in Australian theatres from January 17th 2019.