The recent years have been quite kind for filmmaker, M. Night Shyamalan. After resurrecting his career with the likes of “The Visit” and the surprise “Unbreakable”-connected, “Split”, it would seem that Shyamalan has completely reinvented himself by keeping his films small and simple, yet effective. With the 19 years-in-the-making conclusion to “Unbreakable” and “Split”, “Glass” brings out the best of what we love about Shyamalan, but unfortunately brings out the worst as well.
Glass starts out rather excellently. Picking up with Bruce Willis’ David Dunn as he uses his powers as somewhat of a local vigilante, he runs into James McAvoy’s Kevin Wendell Crumb AKA The Horde. Eventually captured and both locked away in a psychiatric ward, they are grouped with Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr. Glass, in an attempt to prove their powers are actually just figments of their warped brains.
With the first 2/3’s of “Glass”, Shyamalan succeeds in bringing out the best in himself. Teaming with his “Split” DP, Mike Gioulakis, “Glass” is visually interesting and often, exciting. Shyamalan excels with inventive camerawork, in particular, using POV shots to effective degree. The wonderful use of color is also on display. Many sequences are stunning just on a technical level. The group therapy scene with our three leads is perhaps the most memorable.
Given the title, it’s surprising the real star of the film is James McAvoy. Continuing his tour-de-force performance in “Split”, McAvoy yet again flourishes in the role, seamlessly bouncing from one personality to the next in jaw-dropping fashion. He’s truly a sight to behold and makes some of the worst moments of the film more watchable.
Samuel L. Jackson eases back into his role as the titular character. Despite almost 20 years since we last saw his character, Jackson hasn’t lost a step, giving Mr. Glass more depth than previously explored.
Even Bruce Willis shows up to give easily his best performance since “Looper”. Although Willis is given the short end of the stick in terms of screen time and character arc, Willis makes the most of what he’s given with a nuanced performance that reminds us why he became a movie star in the first place.
Reprising her role from “Split”, Anya Taylor-Joy returns to give “Glass” some of it’s much-needed human moments. Finally, Sarah Paulson who joins the fray as the psychiatrist attempting to prove heroes and villains don’t exist delivers strong work. Despite her strong performance though, Paulson’s Dr. Ellie Staple becomes a grating character, given some of the most baffling and irritating character motivations of the entire film.
With the best of Shyamalan, however, comes the worst. The Shyamalan we once feared is sadly back. Recalling the likes of his most ridiculed work, see “Lady in the Water”, characters tend to stop the film dead and monologue about the origins of comic books and why this all fits in with what’s going on and so on and so forth. By the eleventh time a character stops to explain how such character is similar to a comic from the 1940’s you begin yearning for the next time McAvoy transitions between three characters in one shot.
Touting this as the film he’s wanted to make for nearly two decades, It becomes baffling that this is the ending Shyamalan chose. Shyamalan is a special filmmaker in how many risks he has taken over his career. Obviously, many did not pan out so well, but this is a guy who has taken more chances in his first two films, than most filmmakers take in their lifetimes. That’s in part, why the third act of “Glass” comes with such frustration.
Nearly 20 years in the making, it felt as if everything led up to this. Instead, it leads to a giant thud. On paper I would be ok with the climax, but it’s just so illogically conceived, it feels as if Shyamalan hasn’t learned anything from his years in so-called “movie jail”. Feeling amateurish and awkwardly staged, It’s an anti-climactic end that’s sure to frustrate and anger filmgoers for years to come. Once we get to the final scene, it feels that Shyamalan himself is unsure about what he’s trying to say.
Despite an array of strong performances, unique ideas and well-crafted sequences, “Glass” feels like a missed opportunity. I’m not mad Mr. Shyamalan, I’m just disappointed.