Glass – Movie Review – A poetic and highly rewarding conclusion.

To give you some quick context for this review, M. Night Shyamalan’s 2000 film Unbreakable sits up among my favourites of all time. I consider it to be a masterful film that deconstructs the fundamentals of comic book story telling, and takes an insightful look into the relationship between the hero and the villain, within the confines of those stories. It truly was way ahead of it’s time. As for Shyamalan’s 2017 film Split, I thought it was an enthralling thriller that of course came with a surprise ending that shocked everybody. With both of those films now connected, I along with many others have been eagerly anticipating Glass, as it is a film nineteen years in the making and will mark the first time all the key characters from Unbreakable and Split will come together.

Glass picks up after the events of Split, and follows The Horde (James McAvoy) who is now on the loose, and being tracked down by the vigilante David Dunn (Bruce Willis). An early confrontation lands them both in a mental institution where they are joined by Elijah Prince (Samuel L. Jackson), and a psychiatrist named Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who aims to assess all three individuals mental condition.

I will waste no time and declare that I absolutely loved every single second of this film. It had me fully engrossed from beginning to end, I was captivated by it. I am so impressed with Shyamalan’s script and his direction. He stayed true to the nature of Unbreakable by once again keeping a thematic focus at the centre of the narrative, whilst honouring everything he established in that first film. Unbreakable assessed the archetypes of comic book stories and characters, and Glass takes the baton and runs with it. Further dissecting the medium of comic books and offering up a commentary about individual’s having their true potential suppressed, which is something that can be related back to real life. I interpret it as a metaphor for things people deal with on a day to day basis, for example creative suppression in the working world. I love the message the film conveys through it’s storytelling and Mr. Glass’ motivations. I think it’s a very relevant one that certainly connected with me, due to how I interpreted it and related it back to my own experiences.

I’m thrilled that this film didn’t slip into the familiar tropes of most Superhero films we get these days. This is nothing like a Marvel movie, nor is it an intense thriller with horror tendencies like Split. It’s an amalgamation of both Unbreakable and Split, which is executed in a refreshingly unique manner. The story does give you a taste of the Superhero aspects some may be expecting to see through out the run time, but after the first act it evolves into an intellectual and dialogue focused film, akin to Unbreakable.

The entire cast deserve high praise because they all managed to bring their own unique qualities to the film, which in turn made every key character feel necessary and engaging to watch. James McAvoy received top billing and it’s clear to see why. Building upon his work in Split he delivers a truly outstanding performance as The Horde. He is simply magnetic to watch on screen, as he transitions flawlessly between the multiple personalities. He is so excellent in this role, he begins to make it look easy, and that’s why I cannot overstate the level of talent and overall acting ability, that he displays in this film. He returns with some familiar members of the Horde, but also introduces us to personalities we haven’t seen yet, all of whom were a pleasure to witness due to his extremely entertaining performance.

Elijah Prince also known as Mr. Glass has long been one of my favourite Samuel L. Jackson characters, and I was very happy with the direction he took the character in this last instalment. He’s not in the same position he was in during Unbreakable. Elijah has developed beyond that and Samuel was able to display that with very little dialogue at first, and then once he is given longer scenes to perform, his mannerisms and the articulation of his dialogue delivery is stellar. Bruce Willis naturally fit straight back into this role as David Dunn, he too doesn’t feel like he’s giving an identical performance to his one in Unbreakable. Credit must go to Shyamalan’s script which does very well to develop the characters, which in turn gives the actors a lot to work with. With that being said one small nitpick I have, is despite the impact of David Dunn’s arc in this story, It felt like aspects of it were trimmed for the final cut. He does go missing for quite some time as the second act transitions to the third. I can imagine there was probably more development written for him, but it was just cut to make the film more cohesive overall.

I thought Sarah Paulson was terrific as psychiatrist Dr. Ellie Staple. She is a very interesting character to focus on, and she provides most of the films commentary on the delusions of grandeur, that she believes David, Elijah and The Horde have. It was an understated performance. She had to do some of the thematic heavy lifting, but despite that managed to remain grounded and natural. As I said before, all of the key supporting characters are important to the narrative and they didn’t fail to impress either. Anya Taylor-Joy returns as Casey and she was great as always. Casey is at an interesting crossroad in this story, where she is never really conflicted with the idea of trying to help Kevin, despite what The Horde had done to her in the past. I admire the angle they took with her character, and it did feel organic, based on her development through out Split. Spencer Treat Clark also returns to reprise his role as Joesph Dunn. Usually when directors bring back actors to portray an adult version of a character they played as a child, it doesn’t tend to work out that well, but it did in this case. He handled the dramatic weight that his performance demanded very well.

M. Night Shyamalan has once again impressed me with his direction, and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis has done the same in terms of how he chose to shoot the film. This is directed with the flair and creativity of a new director bursting into the industry, not from a veteran director who has been doing this for over twenty years. Usually directors get a little stuck in their ways, but Shyamalan along with Mike manage to come up with unique ways to present all the drama and action to the audience. There’s a plethora of methods they use to showcase The Horde in a fresh and new manner. These methods compliment James’ performance because they allow him to have an extended amount of time during a shot or a take, to really evolve into his performance and have fun with it. Also the action is always shot from interesting perspectives that are much different to what you usually see. He used a POV technique a few times that worked to great effect. It got you up close and personal with the action, and seeing those type of methods executed on an IMAX screen, really did add to the immersion. I can’t forget to mention there is a myriad of shots that really stood out to me as bold and picturesque. The use of lighting along with the camera movements and framing is fantastic.

Flashbacks can sometimes be a great storytelling device, but unfortunately they are often used in a poor manner. Thankfully that’s not the case here. There’s a number of flashbacks that focus on specific characters, and I must say they were all effective and served their purpose of aiding the characters motivations and development.

I thought the score was great, not all of it was memorable but the majority of it did impact the scenes with a layer of intensity or emotion. What stood out to me the most was the sharp violin cues that would drop in, usually during scenes with The Horde shifting personalities. It reminded me of the horror undertones that Split had, and made me think about how I’d love to see Shyamalan to do a supernatural horror story, like James Wan’s The Conjuring.

I tried to identify negatives but in all honesty I could only find a few nitpicks which I’ve mostly already mentioned. The only other thing is something I can’t discuss in detail due to spoilers. Some characters are introduced late on during the third act, and their inclusion left me with some burning questions, but that’s about it. As for the ending itself, which is always a topic for discussion with M. Night’s films, I think it was nearly perfect. The story came to a very poetic and satisfying conclusion. The entire final act had me gripped and I was surprised at how emotionally invested I was in the characters and what was at stake. A couple moments actually made tears form in my eyes, that alone served as one big sign to tell me that Shyamalan’s character work across this trilogy was truly paying off.

Overall, Glass went above and beyond my expectations. M. Night Shyamalan managed to effortlessly develop the themes he introduced in Unbreakable to create a highly rewarding and near perfect conclusion to his trilogy.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

(5 Stars out of 5)

-T. Graham.

Glass – Starring James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy and Samuel L. Jackson.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

Now showing in cinemas.

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