Has any filmmaker had a more up-and-down career than M. Night Shyamalan? When he hits his target the results are often magical. But when he misses he tends to miss badly and some of those pictures have turned out to be unbearable disasters. Yet he still pushes out his brand of movies and many of us still watch his films hoping we’ll get one of the good ones.
His 2016 picture “Split” was one of the good ones. It was a crafty thriller featuring a fabulous James McAvoy performance. But Shyamalan’s biggest twist came in the film’s final moments – a super cool surprise connecting “Split” to his 2000 movie “Unbreakable”. That brings us to his latest project “Glass”, his first dive into this wild and unexpected shared universe.
As someone who really went for his big twist, I was excited for “Glass”. It had huge potential both as an individual film and as a franchise launching point. Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, and James McAvoy are all onboard as well as the return of some key characters from the two earlier films (Anya Taylor-Joy from “Split” and Spencer Treat Clark from “Unbreakable”). Yet despite having all the pieces in place for something really special, “Glass” turns out to be a hard nut to crack.
Sarah Paulson is a new piece in Shyamalan’s 130 minute puzzle. She plays Dr. Ellie Staple, a psychiatrist who specializes in treating patients with delusions of being superheroes. Turns out Philadelphia has just the test cases she’s looking for. With Elijah Price (aka Mr. Glass) already in custody, that leaves Kevin Wendell Crumb (McAvoy), a man with 24 distinct personalities known as The Horde, and David Dunn (Willis), a home security salesman who moonlights as a mysterious vigilante.
As the trailer so clearly reveals, Dr. Staple gets her wish. Kevin Crumb and David Dunn are apprehended and sent to Ravenhill Psychiatric Hospital where Elijah has been kept since his arrest 19 years earlier. Dr. Staple is given three days to ‘cure’ them by deconstructing their delusions and disproving their so-called superpowers.
Of course this all plays into Elijah’s hands who (if you recall from “Unbreakable”) believes comic books are a reflection of the real world. His goal has always been to prove to the mankind the existence of super-powered people. And now he finally has his three essential pieces in one place – a hero, a super-villain, and the mastermind.
All of this allows Shyamalan to dig into what interests him most – psychological face-offs over physical ones. I can see this disappointing those with more action-packed expectations. This is not that kind of film nor is it remotely similar to what currently passes for superhero movies. The modest $20 million budget all but spell it out. “Glass” is very much the anti-blockbuster that sets its own rules and proudly sticks to them.
Yet with all of its promise and ambition, “Glass” sometimes has a hard time getting all of its pieces to fit. For example there are some noticeable holes in the story’s logic. There are also some glaringly obvious questions you would expect to be asked or answered by different characters along the way. Shyamalan attempts to offer some explanations to these things but I’m not sure he quite covers it all.
The performances are strong across the board. James McAvoy is given the most to do which is nice considering how good he was in “Split”. My only beef is that he bounces between personalities too frequently. There’s a perfectly satisfying reason for why he does so, but it leaves little time for him to dig deeper into any of them. Jackson and Willis are a lot of fun, Clark adds some extra heart, and Taylor-Joy is good even though some of her character’s motivations are a bit suspect.
Defining how I feel about “Glass” has proven to be a lot tougher than I thought it would be. I left the theater conflicted, but 24 hours later I felt I had a better grasp of what Shyamalan is going for. “Glass” is far from being the dumpster fire some proclaim it to be, but it’s no perfect film either. Still I think there is something to Shyamalan’s slow-boiling psychological approach and there is some real craft behind his visual technique. As it turns out “Glass” actually worked for me and I’m anxious to see it again. But it took some time to get there and I still find myself mulling over the final act..
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS
It worked for me as well and while I understand not liking what he delivered or wanting something else, I do think it was exactly what we should have expected.
I’m with you. I get the feeling many people were expecting something that the movie never intended to be. That’s a shame because I think MNS deserves some credit for pulling this off.
Nice review 🙂
Thank you. So what did you think of Glass? Had a chance to see it yet?
There were a few minor niggles but mostly I enjoyed it. Split is, without a doubt, the best of the trilogy though.
If you’re interested, here’s my review https://lovepopcorn.home.blog/2019/01/20/review-glass-2019/
“Split” was really good and I think it opened some eyes to how good of an actor McAvoy is. And thanks for the link. Definitely want to read your full thoughts. This is quite the divisive film.
I think we’ve come down very similarly on this. I myself had some issues with internal logic (a glaring example being why in the heck David Dunn would be treated with the same level of discrimination as Kevin Wendell Crumb — well, apart from there needing to be an inciting incident to get all three in the same room, but I feel like maybe there could have been a better way of bringing them together). But all in all, I really admired what he was able to achieve on such a low budget, I actually really dug the parking lot scene. I left surprised by how much I felt closure, on an emotional level as well as narratively.
YES! The parking lot scene was very fitting. I listened to a podcast spoiler review and they hammered that choice from MNS. But it’s funny, they missed a central reason why the confrontation took place their instead of the new city high-rise. It’s as if they were hungry to pound the movie to dust. It’s truly a divisive film.
I haven’t begun my write up because I’m honestly still thinking about it which is a good thing for me. I think what makes it work for me is that you know it’s the close of the trilogy whereas with Unbreakable and Split we had not a clue what they were supposed to be. Here was the first time we had expectations.
That’s such a good point. It definitely added an extra challenge for MNS because we now know the films are connected. Also I completely understand why you’re thinking on it. I saw it last week and started my review. I stopped midway because my perspective changed the more I thought about it. It has certainly faced some sharp criticisms.
I found it quite good as well. and it’s because of that slow boiling approach and craft like you mentioned. i’ve never really been disappointed with this director. I even liked The Happening.
I love hearing so many positives from people. It’s taking a bruising from a lot of critics and some of the gripes have been a little unfair.
I’m going to wait for it on TV as I enjoyed Split as I want to see if that film was just a fluke from Shyamalan or maybe him trying to get back on what worked for him in the past.
Anxious to hear your take on it. Pretty divisive movie so far but it’s very much an MNS movie. Psychological over action. I quite liked it. How are you on MNS as a whole?
I liked “Unbreakable” and “Split”. “The Sixth Sense” was good though I think its re-watches haven’t been kind to the film despite its performances. “Signs” was alright. I haven’t seen “The Visit” but everything he did from “The Village” to “After Earth” is total shit. “After Earth” is a film I don’t put total blame on him for the reason it sucked. I put the blame on Willy-Will and his no-talented little shit.
After Earth was dreadful. So was The Last Airbender. I didn’t like The Village or Lady in the Water. I loved Signs though. The Visit is quite fun. You should give it a look.
Thank you for your interesting review! It’s one of the most positive ones I’ve read so far!
It’s turned out to be a pretty divisive movie. I think it certainly opens itself to some criticisms. But I’ve found myself disagreeing with a lot of them especially the more time I have to think about the movie.
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I’m glad you liked “Glass”, but personally, I’m not sure if I want to see it myself after watching this review of it: https://www.yourmoviesucks.org/yms-glass-review/. Plus, the only M. Night film I’ve seen so far is “The Village” (my review of it: https://boardsofcinema.wordpress.com/2020/03/21/movie-review-the-village/), and that wasn’t too terribly great either, so judging by that, I probably wouldn’t like this film either.
Oh The Village! It’s definitely one of the weaker MNS films. Not a good one to judge him by.
Yeah, I didn’t think so. I know some of the other stuff he’s made is apparently far, far worse (“Lady in the Water”, “The Last Airbender”, “After Earth”), but I can definitely see how “The Village” would be one of his lesser films. I admittedly do like what M. Night was trying to get at with that film (can’t say it here because of spoilers, but it’s in my review), but it just didn’t come out in a very good way. Lots of people now think of it as some kind of masterpiece, which baffles me.
Oh all three of the movies you mentioned or much worse than “The Village”. That was a pretty terrible run for MNS. His early stuff is really good. I also like “Signs”.
The poster for “Glass” isn’t showing up at the top of the screen.
Weird. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll give it a look.