Jacob Richardson | 18/01/2019
Not quite as enthralling as Unbreakable, nor as surprising as Split, GLASS is nevertheless a satisfying conclusion to this retrofit trilogy.
Set after the events of Split, GLASS opens with David Dunn (Bruce Willis) - the super strong, unbreakable security guard - tracking down the now famous ‘Horde’, whose exploits have become fodder for news media. When he finds Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), they duke it out until they realise they are surrounded by a militaristic presence, led by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). Staple works exclusively with patients who she says suffer the delusion of being a superhero, and she inters David and Kevin in a psychiatric facility, where they join David’s old foe Elijah Glass (Samuel L. Jackson). While Dr. Staple tries to convince the trio they are delusional, the three must try and escape to show the world that superheroes really do exist.
M. Night Shyamalan has had a number of high-profile flops over the years, and while GLASS is certainly not one of them, it probably doesn’t pack all of the punch we were hoping for from this assemblage of actors and characters.
The key problem is the central conceit. While it is intriguing to explore the psychological impacts of convincing these three men their powers aren’t real, the endless monologuing from Dr. Staple gets tired very quickly. Nevertheless, Shyamalan insists on grounding our story in this experience for well over an hour of the runtime. One assumes this was due to budgetary considerations (even the final fight never leaves the compound of the psychiatric institute), but for what was touted as a tremendous battle between the forces of good (David Dunn) and the forces of evil (The Horde and Glass), there is just not enough confrontation.
The movie is at it’s best when The Horde (or more specifically, The Beast) and David are fighting one another, which only really happens in the first and third act. That’s a shame, as is the fact that a fight at the newest, tallest building in the city is teased but never paid off. Shyamalan’s trilogy is all about subverting the superhero genre, and that is entirely fine, but with the amount of superhero content we are forced to consume these days (with all of the Marvel and DC franchises pumping out film after film), the expectation of what should happen with these movies is stronger than ever. By subverting that final payoff, as much as we as the audience understand the reason, the disappointment around not seeing that final fight is SO much greater than it would have been 5, 10 or 15 years ago.
What is to love here are the performances. While Paulson’s Dr. Staple grates, the three leads are all tremendous. Jackson’s switch from near comatose hospital patient to incredibly sentient genius is brilliant, and when he isn’t sidelined for most of the movie Willis reminds us what made us love Unbreakable in the first place. Far and away the best of the bunch, however, is McAvoy, who gets to play so many characters in such rapid succession, dazzling and delighting every time he switches personas. It’s a tour de force from McAvoy, who must absolutely love the challenge and opportunity of playing a man with 24 distinct personalities.
Not as good as you want it to be, but still an intriguing, enthralling take on the superhero genre.