M. Night Shyamalan’s capper to the stealth trilogy – unofficially starting with Unbreakable in 2000 and stunning everyone who didn’t even realise it existed until the dying moments of 2017’s Split – reaches it’s conclusion with Glass, in which the stoic, heroic, yet H2O phobic David Dunn tangles with Kevin Wendell Crumb and his army of multiple personalities.
The Unbreakable David Dunn is still patrolling the streets, using his gifts of enhanced strength and durability to fight crime as The Overseer while his son monitors his actions as technical backup as they try to track down The Horde; a man made up of 25 split personalities. The Horde’s real identity (also that word has extra special meaning here) is Kevin Wendall Crumb but right now it’s his more insidious personalities who are calling the shots, kidnapping and sacrificing girls to Crumb’s terrifying bestial, super-strong alter ego The Beast. Inevitably, the Overseer and The Beast meet in a physical confrontation only for the both of them to be captured and locked away in a sanatorium under the belief that they are both delusional, sick and crazy as arseholes. However, also spending time in this treatment centre is brittle boned, domestic terrorist and all round sinister genius: Elijah Price, a.k.a Mr. Glass who is the man who originally helped Dunn discover his powers but was ultimately revealed as the mastermind behind numerous disasters.
With all three of these “super powered” individuals under the same roof, Glass starts doing what he does best, pulling more strings than a puppeteer at a marionette orgy but is someone else ultimately pulling his?
I was seriously looking forward to this and y’know what? For a fair deal of the running time Glass delivers. Sort of. Lumping in the leads from the opening acts of his stealth trilogy (plus brittle boned mastermind Elijah Price) initially proves to be as quietly awesome as we all hoped it would be, and yet while being treated by flashes of Shyamalan at his best, we’re also asked to wade through some of the director’s worst habits too.
So, in a twist M. Night would approve of, let’s start at the end and work backwards.
Once again, Shyamalan’s inability to resist himself from tacking not one but two utterly unnecessary and unwieldy twists to the ending sinks him as fast as a submarine fitted with a sunroof. While I won’t divulge either of them here (although I will say that death by puddle is quite possibly one of the worst payoffs I’ve ever sat through), the first comes extraodindarily out of left field and is so jarring it all but derails everything that came before it and the second is too trite and unearned to be even remotely convincing or satisfying.
Frustrating twistage aside, the writer/director’s aim to make an epic superhero showdown set almost entirely within a mental hospital suffers a little too much from it’s sprawling runtime. Despite being a triple header (with a marble-eyed Sarah Paulson commentating from the sidelines) there are vast chunks of the movie where one of the three leads simply isn’t around. Samuel L. Jackson’s shrewd, string-puller doesn’t fully slam into fifth gear until the halfway point and then it’s Bruce Willis’ turn for his steely visage to vanish from the screen for no reason at all to the point where you almost forget he’s there. It’s detrimental but not fatal. Just.
Where Glass pays off, however, is in the long awaited showdowns and interactions between these superhuman beings while still treating them with a sheen of down-played “reality”. The machinations of Jackson’s manic haired Mr Glass, Willis’ rainslicker sporting “Overseer” and James McAvoy’s frenzied showing off as he bounces from personality to personality like a mentally ill Super Mario all hit exactly the right notes (despite the fact that aside from Dunn’s two rumbles with Kevin’s über-alter ego The Beast, Willis hasn’t got that much to do except scowl which is a shame because he’s impressively trodden down this path before as the institutionalized time traveller in 12 Monkeys.
So while we ricochet between being elated and disappointed, McAvoy puts in the performance of several lifetimes, switching between pretty much most of his characters 25 personalities often during the same, unbroken shot, although the welcome returns of Patricia, The Beast and especially 9 year old Hedwig make the most impact. It’s an impressive achievement and the only thing that comes close you matching it is how much fun Samuel L. Jackson is having.
So… an enjoyable disappointment, then? A riveting let down? A worthwhile waste of time? Not entirely, but it’s ridden with too many missteps to rank it comfortably alongside it’s other far more accomplished entries in this “franchise”.
If Unbreakable was rock solid and Split was fantastically fractured, Glass, unfortunately, is merely cracked.