M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film was 19 years in the making, he claims. That makes sense, as Glass is overflowing with what seems like two decades of ideas. And though almost as many of those concepts are ludicrous as profound, Glass glints just enough for a drink.
The new mashup of drama and science fiction is being billed as the final film in a trilogy that began in 2000 with the masterpiece Unbreakable. The series continued, surprisingly, with Split in 2017. Now Glass has combined the characters and plots of the previous two films into an enjoyable but ridiculous romp that both pays respect to comic-book films and satirizes them.
Returning from Unbreakable is Bruce Willis as David Dunn (a.k.a. the Overseer), a former security guard who has turned his uncanny, almost supernatural ability to track down criminals into a personal vigilante crusade. Also reprising their roles from the original are Spencer Treat Clark as David’s son, Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price (a.k.a. Mr. Glass) and Charlayne Woodard as Elijah’s mother. (David’s wife, played by Robin Wright, has been written out.)
Back from Split are James McAvoy as the 24 personalities of the Horde and Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey. And new to the series is Sarah Paulson as a psychiatrist intent on proving that the Overseer, the Horde and Mr. Glass are nothing more than normal humans caught in a delusion fueled by circumstance and our culture’s preoccupation with superheroes.
“Comic books are an obsession,” she says. “There just can’t be gods among us.”
Despite a lofty premise and Shyamalan’s hypnotic camera work, Glass lacks the quiet intelligence of Unbreakable and the creepy intrigue of Split. And although it’s set mostly in a mental hospital, it eschews the small scale of the previous films for a larger canvas. To mix warfare and entertainment metaphors, it goes over the top to jump its shark. And, yes, there are multiple twists in traditional Shyamalan fashion, so get ready for an endless parade of “gotcha” climaxes.
The good news is that if you liked the earlier movies and are fond of the four main actors, you will be entertained. The interaction of the Horde and Mr. Glass are especially rewarding, with McAvoy and Jackson living up to performance expectations. Willis, on the other hand, is denied the juicier moments, while Paulson steals the narrative light toward the end. Simply put, these characters are almost too well-conceived to fail, though Shyamalan certainly tests that theory.
In one of the film’s many meta-theatrical moments, Paulson’s character, referring to the plot, admits, “This all sounds very familiar.” Thanks to the glut of comic-book flicks, yes, it does. But just as Unbreakable redefined that genre, Glass takes it in directions heretofore unexplored, counterbalancing the movie’s glaring imperfections.