STARRING: JAMES MCAVOY; SAMUEL L. JACKSON; BRUCE WILLIS; SARAH PAULSON
DIRECTED BY: M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
And just like that, M. Night Shyamalan is once again the most divisive writer/director in the movie industry. Following his success, what some have claimed as a comeback with The Visit and Split, Shyamalan was given the keys to the Blumhouse car for his newest film Glass. It’s a sequel to Unbreakable and Split, but this is more of a Frankenstein’s monster of cinema. Shyamalan attempts to merge three films, using a revolving door of characters, and bring it all together as a psychological twist to comic-book movies. The result is a movie that never worked for me. Instead, Glass is just a shattered mess.
Things pick up where Split ended. The man with multiple personalities- Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) roaming a warehouse, with four new women chained up, fighting the monster inside him- The Beast -that wants to erupt and attack his catch. Following the reports on the news, David Dunn (Bruce Willis) returns, wearing his signature rain poncho, remembered as the man that survived a train derailment 19 years ago. Using his hypersensitive powers, he’s able to locate the missing women, setting up a fight with Crumb, The Beast, and the various personalities that inhabit his body. The feats of super strength wages on, until police, and a doctor named Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) capture the two, placing them into a massive security psyche ward. Her goal is to study these men and prove that superheroes do not exist. It’s all in their heads.
Like most of his films, it is apparent that M. Night Shyamalan is an extremely skilled director. I find his work to at the least original. Starting with The Sixth Sense, his style is rooted in the manner of Steven Spielberg or Alfred Hitchcock. The majority of his films feature his signature “twist”, which either divides or earns a rise out of audiences. Glass is the old Shyamalan. An often well intentioned movie, with impressive cinematography by Mike Gioulakis, a shrieking music score by West Dylan Thordson, and strong multiple-character work by McAvoy. As a whole, however, Glass never pieces together. It’s hard not to see that Shyamalan is impressed with his own voice, creating a narrative that may have sounded good in his head, but rambles on the screen. Glass keeps us engaged and never pays off.
The second and third acts take place in a Philadelphia psyche ward, where our title character Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up. He’s often in a comatose state in his wheelchair, not revealing his plan till it’s too late. He is the chess master, the brains playing the long game, and often aware, that although he has “brittle bone” syndrome, he is too smart for any understaffed facility. Sadly though, the Pulp Fiction star is taking a back seat to a long build up of dialogue that Shyamalan believes we care about. Crumb and Dunn are subjected to various conversations with the doctor (Paulson saddled with too many monologues) about their “conditions” and when any action happens it’s pedestrian. Although the performance from McAvoy is entertaining, switching from one alter-ego to the next, he is surrounded by some lazy work from Willis, and the underwhelming performance from Jackson.
The failures of Glass are much more fun to talk about than anything it does good. I tend to be fascinated with Shyamalan, a director that has achieved phenomenal highs (The Sixth Sense), eye-popping lows (The Happening), started back at square one (The Visit), and made a comeback (Split) all before the age of 50. With Glass, he’s staying true to the man that directed Lady in the Water or The Village. As Unbreakable did, he wants to comment on the sate of comic-book culture, the movie industry in general, and mess with his audience. The ending of Glass left me so dumbfounded I wondered if Shyamalan felt good about smashing everything he had created? Clearly he is skilled at making movies, but time and again, he veers his stories into a wall, destroying any sense of cohesion.
Sadly, I think Glass erases any good that Split did. All of the comments Shyamalan made about trauma or mental health before are now just comical bits to the audience. I still loved McAvoy’s work, but viewers don’t see Crumb as a sad story, he’s now a clown that amuses us. Actors Anya Taylor-Joy and Spencer Treat Clark offer a bit of youthful talent, reviving their roles from Split and Unbreakable, expanding an already overcrowded narrative. The best I can say about Glass is that as bad as it ultimately is, this is still Shyamalan doing it on his own terms. He continues to build his stories up, invent unique characters, and then shatter it all into little pieces. This is a fractured film, by a director that has constantly let us down. It all lines up with his characters. They’re not perfect and our superheroes can let us down. I guess Shyamalan likes them that way. This Glass is broken.
Written by: Leo Brady