Review: Glass

16 Jan 19

Solid, entertaining, and often fun.

With The Sixth Sense (1999) and Unbreakable (2000), writer/director M. Night Shyamalan delivered a one-two punch of great movies.

Unbreakable especially blew me away, with its meandering arthouse sensibility, languorous long-takes, stylised realism, all in service of what turned out to be a thoughtful, adult take on a superhero origin tale. Then, Shyamalan lost me with a series of increasingly dire movies - um, The Last Airbender anyone?

Then, 15-years after Unbreakable, he pulls a final act twist with the excellent return to form that was Split (2016), in which James McAvoy is revealed as super-villain The Horde, and Bruce Willis pops up in the final moments as Unbreakable’s hero-in-the-making, David Dunn.

Now, in Glass, Shyamalan ties up the trilogy, with Bruce Willis’ indestructible rain-hooded hero David Dunn, McAvoy’s multiple-personality villain The Horde, and Samuel L. Jackson’s brittle-boned mastermind, Mr Glass, all held captive by Sarah Paulson’s Dr Ellie Staple.

She's a psychologist specialising in delusions of grandeur. She attempts to convince the trio they are not super-powered, merely delusional.

The problem there is we know from the previous movies that they are superhuman, so it’s a gambit that does little to build tension, until, true to form, Shyamalan hits us with a twist or three, bringing the worlds of Unbreakable and Split crashing together.

Ultimately, Glass is nowhere near as beautifully shot, edited and scripted a tale as Unbreakable. Nor can it have the genuine surprise factor of Split, but it is a solid, entertaining, and often fun film.

It can be a bit heavy handed, telling the audience directly that what’s playing out is a metaphor, about geek culture and adults hanging on to the stuff of youth (in this case comic books and abuse), and needing to let go and be all they can be… or something.

There’s some clunky exposition (two portly comic book store customers discuss a comic book trope plot machination in front of a character, who suddenly looks up and… lightbulb!), and a few heavy-handed clues, such as when Dr Staple is about to operate on Mr Glass’ frontal lobe, and tells him she can’t wait to look into his “perspicacious” mind. It’s such a specific word and stands out amidst the ordinary language of the film, drawing attention to Mr Glass’ character as, well, no spoilers, but he’s a crafty one that Mr Glass.

Seen as a sequel to both Unbreakable and Split, sure it’s disappointing. It could have and should have been so much more, but judged alone as an adult superhero vs supervillains movie? It’s really not that bad.

Entertaining, fun, thoughtful, and with the emphasis less on action than on reflecting on the meaning of heroes and villains and their place in our culture, Glass has its faults but it’s still a darn sight better than say, After Earth.

So, take the negative reviews with a giant pinch of salty high expectations, and go for a knockout performance by McAvoy (he steals the movie from Sam and Bruce and never gives it back), a fun cameo from the director, and a great supporting cast, all in service of a comic book movie that dares to take comic book lore seriously and, kinda, sorta, sometimes, mostly gets away with it.