Bruce Willis, James McAvoy, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat Clark, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlayne Woodard
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…well made, well acted, gorgeously shot film that is worth a look, but for audience members invested in these stories, in these characters, it may prove a somewhat sluggish and deflating experience.
When M. Night Shyamalan released Unbreakable in 2000 it was profoundly misunderstood by critics and audiences alike. Hot on the heels of the massive success of The Sixth Sense (1999), the studio attempted to market Unbreakable in a similar manner, suggesting it was a supernatural thriller when in fact the movie is a lowkey, deconstructed superhero movie that homages comic book conventions. As amazing as it sounds, nineteen years ago comic book movies were considered niche propositions that didn’t make money!
Despite the lukewarm reaction at the time the film has a loyal cult following, and the followers were delighted to learn 2016’s Split occupied the same cinematic universe, setting up a potential Unbreakable sequel that featured impervious-to-everything-but-water David Dunn (Bruce Willis), split personality monster man, Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Horde (James McAvoy) and malevolent genius with brittle bones, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson). Well, the time has come, friends, and that ultimate crossover event is here in the form of Glass. So, was it worth the wait? Crikey, that is a tough old question.
Glass begins exactly as you might imagine, taking place a few weeks after the events of Split. The Horde is up to their old tricks, kidnapping nubile teenagers and preparing for the next coming of The Beast. However, David Dunn is on the case, with the help of his now adult son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) and he’s ready to punch all of The Horde’s identities into submission.
Without going into specifics, events take a turn and we end up having David and The Horde imprisoned in Raven Hill, a psychiatric hospital, where wide-eyed Dr Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) attempts to treat their “delusional beliefs” that they’re superheroes. She has a third patient who is revealed to be none other than Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass himself. It’s here that the film slows right down and the gradual build to the climax begins. There’s a delicious tension at play, because you know that eventually one – or all – of these patients will escape, but the joy comes from finding out who and how.
The problem with this section of the film, and indeed Glass as a whole, is that the slow build really takes its time. Shyamalan is a master of suspense, it’s true, but in a piece where all the main players have been introduced and explored in previous entries, it’s hard to get desperately excited about lengthy, talky sections where a shrink tries to convince our characters that their powers are imagined.
Unfortunately, however – and we’re going to tread very lightly here to avoid spoilers – when the climax finally arrives it’s… not quite what you might be expecting. Nor is it anything previously alluded to in either Unbreakable or Split, coming as a genuine shock to the system. Subverting an audience’s expectation is good, even necessary in a low budget thriller like this, but the left turn towards the end of the film – and the inevitable twist – is so extreme it may leave audience members reeling, and not in a good way.
Bruce Willis plays Dunn with his trademark grim stoicism, while James McAvoy once again relishes the chance to showcase a dizzying array of personalities, absolutely hurling himself into the role, and it’s always great to see Samuel L. Jackson in mad genius mode – although he seems to feature less than you’d imagine in a film named after him. The supporting cast showcases solid work from Anya Taylor-Joy and Charlayne Woodard (both returning from Split and Unbreakable respectively) but it’s all in service of a film that may have been written just a little too cleverly for its own good. To be clear, Glass is a well made, well acted, gorgeously shot film that is worth a look, but for audience members invested in these stories, in these characters, it may prove a somewhat sluggish and deflating experience.