Glass

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Glass-poster-1-647x1024.jpgDirector: M. Night Shyamalan

Writer: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Bruce Willis, James McAvoy, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark

Cert: 15

Running time: 129mins

Year: 2019


 


What’s the story: In a mental institution, a doctor tries to convince the seemingly superhuman David Dunn (Willis) and Kevin (McAvoy) and the brittle-boned Elijah Price (Jackson) they are not real-life superheroes and villains.

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What’s the verdict: We blame Christopher Nolan. His Dark Knight trilogy received the plaudits for bringing superheroes and villains into a world recognisably our own. And made a few billion bucks into the bargain.

No-one really mentioned M. Night Shyamalan had done the same thing in January 2000 (before X-Men even) with Unbreakable and created his own superhero along the way.

Presumably, this explains why M. Night spends a hefty proportion of Glass trashing superheroes and comic books (and by extension fans thereof). Fittingly for a film about split personalities, Shyamalan also seems to love superheroes and comic books.

Yep, like a broken mirror or Elijah Price after a tumble, Glass is fractured, messy and all over the place. A sequel to both Unbreakable and 2016’s Split (whose twist ending was its story being located in the Unbreakable-verse) it reunites Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson from the first film, adding James McAvoy from the second.

For… what? A titanic dust-up? A sombre study of power and responsibility? A broad black comedy about fanboy delusion? A sensitive portrayal of love conquering hate?

Kind of all the above, kind of none of it.

An early clash between McAvoy’s multiple personality disorder Kevin (aka The Horde) and Willis’ David Dunn (named Overseer and Green Guard by an unimaginative public) promises we will witness Dunn’s true potential.

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But, the pair of them are soon incarcerated in a mental facility with well-meaning Dr. Ellie Staple (Paulson), a psychologist convinced they are delusional rather than exceptional.

Also banged up in the hospital is Jackson’s Elijah Price, constantly sedated due to his unnerving ability to conjure remarkable escape plans.

Are they all kidding themselves? Are comic books no more than adolescent frippery?

For those of us who love Unbreakable – a film whose entire story is someone discovering they are a superhero – the answer is no, of course they’re not kidding themselves.

Frustrating then to wait for the film to catch up to what we know going in. Leaving us to marvel (pun kind of intended, but not as much as the one Shyamalan sticks in the film) at the plot holes. Plot holes Thanos could throw that Infinity War moon through.

Like why is a hospital housing three such high value inmates so understaffed? Couldn’t we have had one line about budget cuts?

How did Price, evil genius though he is, teach himself advanced computer coding in ten minute chunks (and is his real superpower resisting the allure of internet porn to do so)?

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And why do we again have to watch a film with villains responsible for myriad gruesome deaths get recast as tragically misunderstood?

But, there’s no reason to split early. Great to see Willis and Jackson again inhabiting these roles. McAvoy astonishes once more playing multiple distinct personalities, often in one breath. Unbreakable’s muted tone is absent, but there is fun in watching Dunn fight crime, with son Joseph (Clark) his guy-in-the-chair feeding him information.

Flashbacks plus callbacks to Unbreakable and Split are undisciplined, but amongst the highlights. A fairground scene with a young, brittle-boned Elijah demonstrates Shyamalan’s talent for spinning tension on a dime.

Anya Taylor-Joy returns from Split, although most of her storyline seems to have been broken off and discarded.

And the writer/director makes big, bold decisions that you only get when stumping up the $20m budget yourself.

They may not be wise decisions. The climax and approximately one hundred and twenty four subsequent surprise endings will infuriate as much as astonish. The sideswipes at our superhero-obsessed era come off as muddled sour grapes. A Split fan-theory is confirmed, but clumsily landed.

Yet, what remains is admiration that something so barking mad joins the superhero ranks. It may not be welcomed, but if Glass scores big at the box office it might create a mutant offshoot of Marvel and DC’s more respectable output.

Rob Daniel
Twitter: rob_a_Daniel
iTunes Podcast: The Electric Shadows Podcast

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