Glass is the sequel to Split, which was the surprise sequel to Unbreakable. M. Night Shyamalan is a mixed bag of a storyteller. He is incredibly talented behind a camera and is good at telling very human stories. He definitely isn’t without his flaws. During the years of 2004 up until the release of The Visit in 2015, M. Night was at a major low in his career with a slew of horrible films. From Lady in the Water to After Earth and The Last Airbender, these were some of the worst films released in the last 15 years. But in the early years of Shyamalan’s career, he put out three masterfully made films. The Sixth Sense is one of the best thrillers and contains probably the most famous twist ending of all time, it was a huge hit with audiences, critics, and the academy awards. Signs, while flawed, has some genuine family moments and really funny ironic humor to it. It also contains one of the scariest scenes I have ever witnessed. And Unbreakable. Unbreakable is one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time. It is a masterclass in storytelling and how to make a film. It is a masterpiece and easily for me his best work. So yes, I’m a bit of an M. Night Shyamalan fan.
With that all being said, you could imagine my excitement at the end of Split (spoilers for the end of Split… but I mean, come on?). The reveal of Bruce Willis’ David Dunn at the end and revealing this is a secret sequel and supervillain origin story to Unbreakable had me physically shouting out loud with a theater full of people “Oh My God!”. One of my favorite endings to a movie of all time, it made the whole movie of Split so much better (which is saying something because I really liked Split a lot). To say I was pumped for Glass would be an understatement.
Glass sees the return of James McAvoy’s “The Horde”, Bruce Willis’ “David Dunn, and of course, Samuel L. Jackson as “Mr. Glass”. It follows David Dunn as he tracks down The Horde for his kidnapping and killing of young teenage girls. I won’t go into much more story detail than that, as I didn’t know much more than that story-wise going into Glass.
Glass has me conflicted. There are parts of this movie that I loved and was exactly what I wanted in this 19 year in the making sequel. In fact, the first two acts were amazing. We spend a majority of the movie with James McAvoy, he really feels like the focus of the movie despite the title being Glass. I didn’t have a problem with this really, I was so captured by McAvoy’s brilliant performance. All these characters he is able to portray and switch in and out is so fluent and seamless. Hedwig, the nine-year-old persona, killed me. Anytime he was on screen I was laughing and had a big smile on my face. The humor that is placed throughout with Hedwig was tasteful and never detracted from the pace or story at hand. All returning characters he plays, along with new ones, were all done so well and distinctly different from each other. James McAvoy is remarkable.
It was great to see Sam Jackson reprise his role as Elijah Price, and he was really good when he decides to be a part of the narrative. As for Bruce Willis, you can tell he’s actually putting effort into this movie. Lately, he seems like he sleepwalks through all the movies he’s in just for a paycheck. Here he is trying to put in a good performance and I think he really does. I loved seeing how David Dunn operates and tracks down criminals and brings them to justice. Unfortunately, the character of David Dunn is put on a back burner. His character is really sidelined and we don’t get a lot of time with him. In fact, there’s not much of a storyline for him other than he’s there to stop the villains. For say the first 20 minutes with him which are great and we get see his life and how he operates, the rest of the movie just pushes him to the side. That was a big disappointment because the character arc in Unbreakable is so good and handled so well, I was really hoping for more development for his character.
I love Anya Taylor Joy in this movie. The direction they go with her is a great progression for the character. The relationship that started in Split with her and Kevin (The Horde) was built upon beautifully and expanded to deeper levels. This plot point/side story may be the best in the whole movie. It hits the deepest emotional level. It also doesn’t necessarily confirm but definitely hints at a theory I have had about her character since Split.
I wasn’t expecting any action at all in Glass, so the fact that we get a couple of good scenes of action was a welcome surprise. This isn’t Avengers: Infinity War level action or even a smaller Marvel movie like Iron Man level action. Very simple and minimalistic. A grounded approach to superhuman beings living among us. The action showcases the level and power that these characters pose. There was an overuse mounted camera shots on the actors during these scenes, where a camera was mounted to the actor’s chest and facing toward the actor’s face. Giving these shots a GoPro looking style that I felt was overused. The rest of the movie is gorgeous to look at, the use of color is effective and places importance to each character. Shyamalan uses the same DP from Split and he is able to craft a film that looks just as good.
The majority of the movie takes place in the mental institute, which is not necessarily where I would want this story to go, but knowing that it does ahead of time prepared me for it and I walked away really enjoying those scenes. They were intriguing enough to keep me invested. Where this movie falls apart and loses all steam is in the final act and more specifically the last 20 minutes. No spoilers here, but the decisions and the direction M. Night takes the story is baffling to me. There are so many ways this story could go and I don’t understand how he thought this was the best way to go. The twist/reveal of the ending felt unearned and did not fit with the story the first 2 acts set up in telling. What made The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable’s twist ending memorable and great was they enhanced the movie as a whole. You can go back and re-watch those movies and it makes the movie better. It makes sense and fits into the narrative. I walked out of Glass feeling cheated out of a good conclusion to a story I’ve been in love with so many years. The ending falls flat, M. Night doesn’t stick the landing.
Another personal gripe I had with Glass was its lack of use of James Newton Howard’s breathtaking and brilliant score from Unbreakable. West Dylan Thordson returns from Split to compose and he does a great job in doing so, but I really wish he had pulled more from Unbreakable instead of just ever so slightly hinting at it. “The Orange Man” and the Unbreakable theme are some of the most overlooked pieces of music in film history. They are some of the best work ever done.
Glass is a film that I was loving until the end and makes this so conflicting for me. There are so many shades of greatness in Glass, but that ending makes those moments hard to love. It feels like M. Night had a few ideas for Glass and couldn’t decide which one to do. It lacks the focus and singular vision that Unbreakable and Split had. There is still, however, a lot to love about Glass and this original Superhero world M. Night Shyamalan so masterfully crafted 19 years ago.
I’m going to give Glass a B-.