“Glass” Movie Review


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     After demonstrating so much promise with recent hits such as “The Visit” (2015) and “Split” (2017), M. Night Shyamalan regresses back to the days of his lesser work like “After Earth” (2013) with “Glass”, a sequel to his 2000 film “Unbreakable” and the third film in a trilogy which also includes the aforementioned “Split”.  In all fairness, Shyamalan, like many of his contemporaries, is often victimized by his own success.  His breakout hit, 1999’s “The Sixth Sense”, established the director as a phenom and also attached clear expectations of which few filmmakers could possibly meet.  Sure, others such as James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino have managed to capture lightning in a bottle, churning out several notable classics after their debut features created lofty standards for themselves.  But Shyamalan has struggled to do the same, and critics have regularly ravaged his offerings as having never measured up to what he had already proven capable of.  A one hit wonder if you will.

     Coming on the heels of “The Sixth Sense”, even “Unbreakable” was not the sophomore effort audiences were expecting, though the film over the past nineteen years has been reexamined and is how thought to be Shyamalan’s best work.  The final scene in “Split” gave way to something many of his fans had been clamoring for, as it was revealed the film was a sequel to “Unbreakable”, taking place in the same world as Bruce Willis’ would be superhero David Dunn and his nemesis and criminal mastermind Elijah Price played by Samuel L. Jackson.  News which then brought forth a number of interesting possibilities where David would face off against The Beast, as a horrified Philadelphia looked on.  

     One of the issues Shyamalan faces with each film he makes is the built in expectation of that “gotcha” moment that has become his hallmark ever since we all were left dumbfounded when we finally realized Bruce Willis was a ghost.  That need to fool the audience in every film seems to have pigeon holed Shyamalan into coming up with new ways to continually pull off the same trick, regardless of the subject matter he’s exploring.  As you view “Glass” and the narrative moves into the third act, it’s easy to see this is exactly where the film’s downfall is.  Without revealing what Shyamalan has concocted for his latest trick, I will say it is neither surprising, nor effective, but rather a real let down that will leave you wondering what the significance is and how it has anything to do with what you just saw.

     “Glass” begins with a reintroduction of David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and his now grown son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), who run a home security business as a front for David’s nightly exploits fighting and solving crime.  We are then brought to a run down empty warehouse, where The Beast (James McCoy), along with his many other personalities, has kidnapped four cheerleaders and has them chained down, presumably for The Beast’s later consumption.  It’s an odd look for sure, with the cheerleaders in full uniform, stuck in some grungy, cliched, horror film set that somehow conjures images of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video and just seems all too convenient considering this is one of the first places the police should look when four young girls go missing.  But this is just the beginning of the film’s plot conveniences.

     After an initial encounter between The Beast and David, they are duped by an army of cops waiting outside and brought to a mental institution where they will be examined for their belief that they are superheroes.  Never mind The Beast is a suspected serial killer with multiple personalities, and David is an internet famous vigilante who has severely injured numerous people.  Forget jail or trial, we’re taking them to the very same institution where Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) is housed so that nineteen years later he can team up with them, help them escape, and enact some nefarious plan he has imagined just for this moment.  No, I’m not kidding.  That’s the plot.

     And while we wait for this, the film spends it’s entire middle half inside the walls of the hospital as a monotone Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) tries to convince the trio that their various “super powers” are merely coincidental.  None of these conversations are interesting, and each requires some kind of plot mechanism to ensure they would even be possible.  Like the one that allows Dr. Staple or an orderly to stand in the same room as The Beast, as their safety depends on a light flashing device installed at the doorway which conveniently, and without fail, instantly changes his personality to another more docile one.  Meanwhile, the character whose name graces the film’s title is no where to be found until the midway point, and even then he’s a sedated mute.  And Bruce Willis couldn’t look any more bored, but can you blame him?

     Even more baffling is the promised climax that never actually happens.  In fact, aside from the opening sequence, the entire film takes place inside the hospital or in the hospital’s parking lot.  And given the size of the hospital and the criminal’s within, there seems to be some really shoddy (or convenient) security in place where there are two employees working 12 on / 12 off shifts and a security guard who mans a gate at the front door.  Aside from this, we never see any other employees or any other patients for that matter.  Safe to say, you don’t have to be a genius like Mr. Glass to figure a way out.  But when you do, the property room still has your superhero gear ready and waiting because after all, you can’t fight The Beast without your rain coat and you can’t execute your diabolical scheme without your “MG” charm from almost 20 years ago.

     If anything saves “Glass” it’s James McAvoy’s performance, as he has perfected the transitions from personality to personality in a manner that is truly frightening.  But seeing the character again just 2 years removed from “Split” takes away some of the novelty.  I don’t want to say “Glass” belongs in the same territory as “The Happening”, but the result here, particularly because of the ambiguous ending, leaves you feeling unsatisfied and bewildered.  There was an opportunity here that seems like it was missed.  The idea of superheroes living among us and utilizing their special talents without the need for flashy costumes or other worldly explanations is as intriguing as any for a film.  But why act like everything has to be a secret and contain nearly the entire film in one building?  Throughout the film, Shyamalan has his characters invoke the necessary framework for great comic book characters and stories, as if the story itself was a comic book in the making.  Fact is, if this story was in the form of a comic book, it would be in the bargain bin within a week.  GRADE: C-