Glass

Posted: February 2, 2019 in Film reviews
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Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson and Samuel L. Jackson.

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What the Beastie Boys look like now will shock you!

Since being nicknamed ‘The Horde’, the multitude of personalities that inhabit Kevin Wendall Crumb (McAvoy) have kidnapped four cheerleaders, and plan to sacrifice them to Kevin’s ultimate personality, the inhumanly strong entity known as ‘The Beast’. On his trail however is vigilante David Dunn (Willis), a man with his own special powers, he is incredibly strong and can sense the guilt in people he touches. When he brushes past Kevin (who’s possessed by 9 year old Hedwig at the time) David sees the girls chained up. David’s son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) who acts as his support via radio, manages to identify the building David saw in his vision.

David arrives in time to save the girls, and then confronts the Beast, but when the police arrive both David and Kevin are arrested and taken to a psychiatric hospital where Elijah Price (Jackson) the man who caused the original train crash that David was the only survivor of, and a man who named himself Mr Glass due to his brittle bones, is also a resident.

Soon David, Kevin and Elijah meet Dr Ellie Staple (Paulson) a psychiatrist who specialises is delusions of grandeur, and very specifically people with the delusion of being superheroes. Ellie explains she has just a few days to convince the men that their belief is a delusion, or else surgery will be required.

Can Ellie convince the three that they’re not superpowered after all, or has she made a huge miscalculation that could cost thousands of lives?

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With a tiny budget Die Hard 6 had to rely on John McClane fighting terrorists in a single room

And so we reach the finale of a curious trilogy that began way back in 2000 with Unbreakable (arguably Shyamalan’s best film) and unexpectedly continued via the surprise 2017 hit Split. Of course, Split was only a very loose sequel to Unbreakable, with little more than a Willis cameo to tie it all together, but Glass works much better as a sequel to both films.

Shyamalan is a divisive director. The Sixth Sense is very good, but did set the tone for him producing genre pictures complete with a shocking (or not) twist, and the law of diminishing returns kicked in, which each film ending up with a sillier resolution than the last. Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Signs, or The Village, but they were films that fell apart if you gave them much thought. Shyamalan also generated complaints of pretentiousness with The Lady and the Water. For me the nadir was The Happening, a hilarious film, but one that, given its subject matter, really shouldn’t have been so laugh out loud funny. Even at his most ludicrous I had faith in Shyamalan to deliver chills (think Haley Joel Osment menaced by ghosts in his apartment, or Bryce Dallas Howard stalked through the woods), but the Happening wasn’t remotely scary. Soon Shyamalan was reduced to directing for hire. The Visit in 2015 garnered some good reviews, but it was Split that really got people talking again, and which prompted Glass.

It’s a curious film, one that does harken back somewhat to Shyamalan’s earlier work, but one that’s too flawed to be anywhere near as good as something like the Sixth Sense or Unbreakable. The gap between the first and second film doesn’t help (for example I’d forgotten about David’s water related vulnerability) and at times some of the acting and dialogue is very clunky, and there are some curious narrative choices into the bargain.

And yet I liked it. No it isn’t perfect, and yes it’s probably at its strongest in the middle portion of the film, but kudos to Shyamalan for giving us something a little different, even if it never feels quite as good as it should be. And you know, I didn’t see the twist (and yes there is one, of course) coming, which is something else in its favour.

Review-GlassAs with Split the strongest part of the film is McAvoy. It must be an actor’s dream to play so many different characters within the same film, and credit must be given to Shyamalan as writer and director here as well. Sure some of the personalities seem ropier than others, but on the whole it’s a masterful acting display, especially given that he often has to seamlessly switch between characters in the same scene, and given that he has to be capable of being both sympathetic victim, and monstrous predator by turn. Surely sooner or later the guy’s going to have to win an Oscar?

It’s nice to see Willis back, and it’s nice to see him not just phoning it in, and if he seems a bit peripheral at times I don’t think it’s Willis’ fault that Shyamalan clearly wants to play more with the villains. I do wish he’d had more of a role to play however, but it is nice to see him giving a damn again.

Jackson does that thing, as with Django, of making you remember there was a time before he just played Samuel L Jackson. Elijah is terrifyingly intelligent, and scarily manipulative, and as with McAvoy he does make you feel a smidgen of sympathy for the character—the flashback to him as a child is incredibly wince inducing.

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I’m a big fan of Sarah Paulson and she does the best she can with what could have been a very two-dimensional role. She’s such a good actress that she does manage to play Staple as warm caregiver one moment, and cold clinician the next.

Also returning from Split is Anya Taylor-Joy, who has an important role to play, but really serves as little more than a plot point, as do Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph and Charlayne Woodard returning as Elijah’s mum.

It’s mostly well shot, although some of the camera work intended to put us in the middle to fight scenes felt jarring. Its biggest problem though is scale. In trying to make an epic superhero film on an indie budget the result can’t hep but come off as somewhat underwhelming, especially when we’re teased a far more spectacular finale than we actually get. Sure, Shyamalan made it work in Unbreakable, but that was almost twenty years ago, before Marvel, DC, Fox etc gave us a plethora of big budget superhero films, and before the genre was really given a self-referential makeover. In 2000 Unbreakable was something different, in 2019 Glass is far less unique, and even feels a trifle hackneyed in places.

But despite that it’s enjoyable enough hokum, and though it’s not the sequel to Unbreakable I’d hoped for, I for one am glad we finally got one.

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McAvoy’s got a crush on you!

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