17th Jan2019

‘Glass’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Bruce Willis, James McAvoy, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, Adam David Thompson, Luke Kirby | Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

glass-poster

M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass is a sequel to both his 2016 multiple personality horror Split and his 2000 superhero drama Unbreakable. The fact that those are two different genres doesn’t appear to bother Shyamalan, who makes a bold attempt to mash them both together, with occasionally interesting dividends, even if the end result is ultimately disappointing.

Following on from Bruce Willis’ surprise appearance in the final scene of Split, Glass picks up the story of Unbreakable‘s David Dunn (Willis), who has apparently spent the previous 18 years wearing a green hooded poncho and keeping the streets of Philadelphia safe as super-powered vigilante The Overseer. With the aid of his now grown-up son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark, reprising his role from Unbreakable), David takes down Split‘s multiple personality serial killer Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), but he ends up getting arrested in the process and thrown into a psychiatric hospital, alongside both Kevin and Dunn’s arch-nemesis, a wheelchair-bound Elijah Glass, aka Mr Glass (Samuel L. Jackson).

All three men are forced to attend therapy sessions with Doctor Ellie Staples (Sarah Paulson), who believes that their so-called superpowers are only a delusion. To help her convince her patients, she enlists the help of David’s son, Elijah’s aged mother (Charlayne Woodard, actually five years younger than Jackson) and Kevin’s only surviving victim, Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy, reprising her role from Split). However, events take an unexpected turn.

As the title suggests, Glass is primarily a sequel to Unbreakable, so a catch-up watch is definitely advised. In particular, it explores that film’s themes and ideas, specifically theories surrounding superheroes and mythology and the idea that super-powered people are a source of inspiration. The only problem is that Unbreakable came out back in 2000, when superheroes were largely confined to comics, whereas in 2019 they’ve achieved a cultural dominance that’s directly at odds with many of the ideas in Glass.

If the film’s central ideas seem muddled and contradictory, Shyamalan at least deserves credit for the largely convincing way he ties the events of Split and Unbreakable together. Unfortunately, though the moment works dramatically, it lacks anything resembling an emotional connection, which leaves the film feeling rather flat.

Similarly, for all the film’s promises in terms of evil master-plans and grand spectacles, the actual finale is a distinct anti-climax. It’s possible that that, in itself, is part of the point Shyamalan is trying to make, but if that’s the case, it’s poorly communicated to the audience and is ultimately underwhelming.

The film is similarly muddled in some of its artistic choices, most notably the bizarre central sequence that has the three men in a group therapy session in a room that’s painted pink, while they’re wearing pastel shades of purple, yellow and green. One assumes that’s meant to represent colours on a comic page, but it’s so distracting that it ends up taking you out of the film.

On the plus side, the performances keep things watchable, particularly McAvoy, who’s clearly enjoying himself, constantly flipping between his different personalities as they vie for control. Similarly, Jackson is as entertaining as always – indeed, a significant part of the film’s enjoyment comes from waiting for the moment when Mr Glass will take centre stage. Willis is relatively passive by comparison (he has minimal dialogue), but he has mastered the art of making it look like he’s doing something even though he’s doing nothing, so it just about works.

Ultimately, Shyamalan pulls off a handful of good moments, but they’re not enough to really bring the film to life and it’s further let down by sluggish pacing and an underwhelming central story. Moreover, Glass doesn’t just fail to satisfy as a sequel to Unbreakable and Split, it’s also disappointing as a stand-alone movie. At least Mark Wahlberg doesn’t show up at the end to announce that a happening is happening.

** 2/5

Glass is in cinemas from tomorrow, Friday January 18th 2019.

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