Glass is the final chapter in the unexpected superhero trilogy from M. Night Shyamalan, following 2001’s Unbreakable and 2017’s Split. The fact that this trilogy exists is one of cinema’s great surprises, as nobody expected Split to be part of the Unbreakable universe. With Unbreakable focusing on the rise of our protagonist, David Dunn (Bruce Willis), and Split focusing on the birth of our villain, The Horde (James McAvoy), the two are now pitted against each other thanks to Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson). The result is an arresting, thrilling finale.
Glass picks up three weeks after the events of Split, where The Beast slayed a number of girls and is now on the loose. With the help of The Hoard, namely Hedwig and Patricia, The Horde has kidnapped four high school cheerleaders, which are to be eaten by The Beast. Meanwhile, David Dunn runs a security company with his son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), while roaming the streets, or as he calls it “taking a walk”, to find trouble and stop it. When David gets wind that the four cheerleaders are missing, he goes looking for them and ends up finding The Beast. As the two battle it out, they are stopped by the authorities and Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who takes both men to an insane asylum, where Elijah “Mr. Glass” is staying as well. As Ellie tries to convince these men that they do not have extraordinary powers, they all have others ideas, which forces them to clash.
The world that Shyamalan has created in this trilogy is not a world everybody will buy in to, but one I sunk my teeth into and never wanted to let go. This is as grounded a world as there has ever been in a superhero movie. There are no aliens, no flying, not even a cape in sight. These superheroes are people just like you and I. They are your neighbors, the cashier at the grocery, a security guard, or a comic book aficionado who wear ponchos and Adidas track pants as their outfits. These are seemingly normal people who have gained extraordinary abilities. This world also deals with mental illness, especially here and in Split, which might offend people, but have comic books ever really handled mental illness properly? Not in the movies they haven’t. These mental illnesses and how they are being diagnosed in the movies aren’t supposed to be taken seriously, it is just a plot device that creates these super-humans. All of this works for me and I want see more of this world.
But it isn’t just the mental disorders that make our heroes who they are. Shyamalan shows our heroes as broken people. People who have suffered a trauma that has pushed them up a level to become super human. Whether it was being born a specific way, almost drowning, or being abused by a parent, they are all victims of trauma and that is what makes them super. They didn’t have radioactive ooze poured on them or were born on another planet. These guys are like Batman and have suffered a great deal and have made the decision to use their pain for the betterment of man or for evil.
This is the best looking Shyamalan film since The Villageand one of his better directing efforts. The production design is stunning with striking uses of color and space. The cinematography is great and I loved West Dylan Thordson’s haunting, stringy score. The performances are top-notch, each actor reprising their roles perfectly. It’s always nice – and rare – to see Bruce Willis care in a movie and he gives his best performance since Looper here. Samuel L. Jackson turns it on as Mr. Glass, the maniacal, evil genius. And McAvoy owns the movie as The Hoard. He shows more personalities and he nails each one, never slipping an accent and morphing his body differently. As The Beast, he is simply horrifying. And even during the finale, when Shyamalan starts unleashing a string of twists, as the director usually does, they all work. None of them feel forced and all of them fit in this universe.
In a time where we get four to five superhero movies are year (we got nine in 2018), most of which are big, loud, other worldly, and recyclable, Glass comes along and shows us another kind of superhero movie. This is a real world movie about how these extraordinary people gained powers through pain and trauma. I loved every bit of this movie. The depths that this world and idea can go are endless and Shyamalan’s direction is as good as ever. If you’re looking for an effects-heavy, mindless flick, Glass isn’t for you. This is a somber, thought-provoking superhero movie and a trilogy unlike any I’ve seen before.
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