Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, James McAvoy
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Running Time: 129 mins
Glass is an American film and the sequel to Unbreakable and Split. After being congregated at a psychiatric institute, David Dunn, Elijah Price and Kevin Crumb find themselves under rigorous treatment and observation as their psychiatrist tries to convince them to see themselves as normal people, but events soon spiral out of control.
Unbreakable and Split are two of M. Night Shyamalan’s best works, with a unique comic book mythos that few other films have been able to create, as well as riveting characters, tense drama and great twists throughout. That’s partly why Glass feels like somewhat of a disappointment, as Shyamalan attempts to bring the previous films’ three characters together under one roof, but fails to replicate the same ingenuity and thrills with a messy, poorly-paced and ultimately rather ridiculous conclusion to this trilogy.
Let’s start with the three characters, with the long-awaited return of Bruce Willis’ David Dunn and Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price (Mr. Glass) after 19 years, as well as the welcome return of James McAvoy’s Kevin Crumb, as they’re set to do battle under the guise of their superhuman identities.
Now, while it’s nice to see these characters again, and both James McAvoy and Samuel L. Jackson bring some great performances to the table – less so from Bruce Willis – there’s very little new to learn about them, with Glass coming off as either a rehash of their original stories, as is regularly the case for Kevin Crumb’s story, or a retreading of their key character elements, as is the case with Mr. Glass and David Dunn, meaning that this film just doesn’t provide the satisfying intrigue and excitement at an ever-widening world that it really should.
On top of that, the film’s unique style as a comic book movie doesn’t evolve particularly well throughout here. The ingenious beauty of Unbreakable was that you gradually came to realise that you were watching a superhero movie from the start – without even knowing it – yet Glass’ attempts to play on comic book genre tropes and adapt them to a more real-world setting just aren’t convincing enough, with a rather tenuous link between the superhero world and the real world through the first act, and then a pretty ridiculous attempt to emulate the genre towards the end.
That’s what Glass tries to do to set it apart from the crowd, and although it doesn’t quite pull it off in particularly impressive fashion, I have to say that it does work at times as a bog-standard superhero movie. Particularly throughout its third act, there’s some great action and tension that gets you properly engrossed in the story for the first time, as we see the three characters in the threatening and complex atmosphere that makes them most fascinating.
Having said that, the first hour of the film is pretty much the opposite, with a frankly tedious and stagnant focus on the three characters being interned at a psychiatric institution, as they sit in separate rooms being visited again and again by their psychiatrist, played by Sarah Paulson.
Although the film is clearly trying to introduce a degree of deeper psychological intrigue and drama that goes beyond simple comic book entertainment, there’s no depth or development of that theme throughout, with the story effectively consisting of a series of repetitive conversations between the characters and the psychiatrist, and little more to focus on.
As the story doesn’t move at all – not even changing setting for a moment throughout – I was expecting a deeper analysis of the characters, but that didn’t come, not even an insight into Sarah Paulson’s character, who is arguably the film’s main presence for the first half, and Paulson’s performance the best of all. As a result, it all starts off in rather dull fashion, and continues in that vein for the best part of an hour, until we finally get to see a change of circumstance that delivers some intrigue.
Finally, I will say that Glass does have its moments; that third act is good fun to watch, despite having a ridiculous and rather non-sensical finale, while the film also has a really good musical score that creates a little bit of tension out of nowhere throughout.
Overall, however, Glass is really quite a mess, with M. Night Shyamalan cobbling together three great characters from two great movies and delivering an underwhelming addition to this makeshift trilogy, with a lack of development on the unique perspective on superheroes, and an infuriatingly stationary and often simply tedious story that drags on and on over the course of a terrible first act, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.9.