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My Review of 'Glass' (2019)

I am the author of three middle-grade children's books, and I blog on the side. My favorite topics are movies, writing, and pop culture.

Glass Movie Poster

Introduction

Fans of M. Night Shyamalan’s 2000 film Unbreakable, about a man who realizes that he is superhuman with the help of a man who is his complete opposite, were thrown for a loop in 2016 when his seemingly stand-alone horror film, Split, about a man with multiple identities who kidnaps three teenage girls, turned out to be a long-awaited sequel to the original film. So, anticipation immediately mounted for the third film in the series which would bring the characters from both films together in a mini-cinematic universe popularized by big-budget superhero movies.

But Shyamalan’s universe paints a much smaller, realistic, character-driven narrative that pays homage to the history of comic book heroes and comments on the themes of good versus evil, destiny, and finding one’s place in the world. Because of this, audiences did not have to be well-read comic book enthusiasts or demand spectacular special effects in order to appreciate it. Glass follows in the same vein as its predecessors, building on the events of the first two films, jumping into the plot at full speed without having to weed through pesky character introductions, and relying on strong performances in order to create a compelling story with a head-scratching ending.

Glass Movie Trailer

Summary

Glass takes place 19 years after the events of the film, Unbreakable and three weeks after the events of Split. David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is now the owner of a home security business by day, and at night, he and his son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) hunt and capture small time criminals. Their main pursuit, however, is the Horde, the 24 identities who reside in the body of troubled Philadelphia zoo worker Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy). The Horde has been capturing young girls and mutilating their bodies when it takes the form of the most animalistic identity in the bunch, The Beast.

After locating the Horde's hideout, David and Kevin are captured mid-battle and are sent to Raven Hill Memorial Psychiatric Hospital for treatment. This happens to be the same institution where Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), aka “Mr. Glass” has resided ever since David reported him to the authorities for his admitted terroristic actions nearly two decades earlier.

The three are treated by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychiatrist who specializes in a particular mental illness in which patients believe that they are superheroes. Meanwhile, Joseph, Elijah’s mother (Charlayne Woodard), and sole survivor of The Beast, Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), set out to prove that the three patients do possess the abilities that they claim to have. However, Mr. Glass has plans of his own.

Tone

As far as M. Night Shyamalan movies go, this one is the most fast-paced and energetic in his filmography. The characters from Unbreakable are punched up to keep the Horde from running away with the entire movie. The action comes at the very beginning, the way any superhero sequel does when it no longer has to introduce characters or set up its world. The audience is meant to know this world so it can get right to the action, hunting the Horde who has been on the loose since surviving two gunshot wounds at the end of Split.

Color is an important element in this film. The hero and villains are each bathed in their signature colors established in the last two films. David is green. Elijah is purple. Kevin is orange. As a result, Joseph, Mrs. Price, and Casey adopt these colors as well. Meanwhile, Dr. Staple wears pink, and their group therapy session takes place in a pink-lit room where the other characters bring their signature colors together, mixing them all in separate but similarly-hued tones which demonstrates her bringing the three super-powered characters together.

At the same time, the colors blend in well with the realistic feel of the film. The shots play with both natural and artificial lighting, shadows, and convincing special effects. There's also the balance of action, drama, and suspense, three of Shyamalan's strengths that help to keep the film grounded yet intense. These elements, on top of the performances, make for an intriguing sequence of events.

Glass Movie Trailer 2

Performances

Much of the heightened energy comes from the strong performances by the movie’s cast. David, especially, is alive and alert, finally fulfilling his purpose in life as a vigilante superhero and including his son as his partner in business and crime.

McAvoy, as the Horde, continues to steal scenes, seamlessly switching from one personality to another. Every mannerism and line delivery is individualized to every familiar persona, and the new ones take on their own characteristics, however briefly. Those who have seen Split can now instantly differentiate between the main personas before they even speak a line, whether it’s Patricia’s modesty, Dennis’ steely glare, or Hedwig’s clumsiness.

Surprisingly, the title character is given very little to do for the first hour. He’s presented as near-catatonic and disinterested in everything that’s going on around him. But Mr. Glass eventually delivers as the super villain that he has proclaimed himself to be, orchestrating every moment of the second and third act in line with his master plan. His intelligence is put on full display as he outsmarts everyone, as outlined in his super-villain resume.

Casey is a character who, while I rooted for her to live in Split, was not high up on my favorites list in this franchise. But she scored big points with her role in this film, as the brave girl who voluntarily ventures to the hospital to try to bring Kevin Wendell Crumb back to reality. While this could have been passed off as textbook Stockholm Syndrome, she makes it about the connection the two share of living as damaged, abused children who lived a nightmare and found ways of withdrawing into themselves in order to cope.

Then there is Joseph, his father’s biggest fan, who not only supports David's crime fighting but refuses to believe that he is anything but the unbreakable man who survived a deadly train wreck unscathed and bench pressed hundreds of pounds in their basement as a kid. Sequels tend to turn the grown children of the heroes into cynical, estranged adults. It was comforting to know that Joseph never lost that belief and that his relationship with his dad has only grown stronger over the years.

Newcomer Ellie Staple holds her own as a psychiatrist on a mission, one who wants to help bring these characters out of their “delusions.” The group therapy session sequence is her turn to shine as she attempts to break their spirit and explain away all of the magnificent feats that David and The Beast claim to have pulled off. But, as promised, there is a twist.

Poll

The Controversial Ending

There’s no doubt that the ending of this movie is unexpected and, to some, angering. I’m still trying to process it myself. Was it good? Bad? I’m not sure. I do know that it could have been worse. Much worse.

I also know that up until the last few minutes, I comfortably enjoyed the ride. Would I have liked more spectacle? Yes. Would I have liked more interaction between the principal characters? Absolutely. The fact that David and Elijah barely acknowledge each other for most of the movie was a little disappointing, considering how strong their relationship was in the first film. But I’ve resolved myself to analyzing what’s on film, not what’s not.

This movie has strong performances, interesting themes, a fun energy, and a definite conclusion to what we didn’t realize up until the final frames of Split is a superhero trilogy twenty years in the making, one that has to hold its own against much larger franchises with much more well-known characters while still pulling off its own unique story. And I have to say, it did.

What did you think of Glass? Leave your opinions in the comments below!