Movie Review: Shyamalan’s ‘Glass’ Shatters During Climax
Do miraculous train crash survivor David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and dissociative identity disorder sufferer Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) really have superhuman abilities? Or can their supposed comic book powers actually be explained away by science and psychology?
That’s the gist of Glass, a well-constructed, generally engaging but deeply unsatisfying follow-up to Unbreakable and Split that doesn’t quite close out M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero trilogy so much as finish it off.
Nearly two decades after Unbreakable, Willis’ Dunn is still roaming the streets of Philadelphia and doling out vigilante justice while sidekick-son Joseph (impressively played by the now-adult Spencer Treat Clark, who was 12 when the first film was made) monitors his movements and social media mentions.
But while beating up random street hooligans is all well and good, Dunn - referred to online as The Overseer - is really after McAvoy’s at-large kidnapper and serial killer, now known as The Horde, who has a fresh batch of cheerleaders chained up in an abandoned factory.
But the pair’s epic showdown isn’t exactly everything a comic book fan might have hoped for: ambushed by police, who have seemingly left the quartet of teens to suffer as bait for Dunn’s eventual arrival, the superhero and supervillain both end up in the arms of authorities.
They’re taken to an expansive psychiatric hospital (really the now-closed Allentown State Mental Hospital near Philly) and placed under the care of kindly psychologist Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who has - in what I can only assume is standard procedure in the states these days - three days to cure them of their psychotic delusions before the system locks them up for good.
Meanwhile, a titular-but-catatonic Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) wastes away under tranquilizers in the room next door, lest his super-human mind allows him to think his way out of the mental hospital.
McAvoy, who devoured the screen in Split, repeats the feat in Glass and easily walks away with the movie. Two decades after Unbreakable, meanwhile, Willis is no longer an engaging hero; he appears to have taken all the sedatives intended for Jackson’s character during the film’s production.
Expertly cagey for it’s first two-thirds, Glass keeps us on our feet as director Shyamalan obscures his ultimate intentions; this film could go either way, and has a lot of fun stringing us along for the ride.
And then it all self-destructs. Building up to a the traditional hero vs. villain resolution - but with that wink-wink knowledge that Shyamalan’s films usually climax with a twist - the final third of Glass is nigh-inexplicable.
It’s the kind of storytelling departure that only a talented director would attempt, and only a profitable director would be allowed to carry out. Props to Shyamalan and Glass for trying something different, but the finale here is truly disheartening and ends the trilogy on a bitterly sour note.
Because the rest of Glass is so well-constructed and well-played, it’s easy to imagine most audiences going along with it. It’s all but impossible, however, to imagine anyone leaving the cinema satisfied with what they’ve just seen.