21st Jan2019

‘Glass’ Review – Second Opinion

by Jak-Luke Sharp

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


M. Night Shyamalan’s grounded and enigmatic superhero trilogy concludes after a nineteen-year wait. Crafting the breadcrumbs in only his second feature Unbreakable, after his breakout hit The Sixth Sense – both starring action hero Bruce Willis released in 2000 and 1999 respectively. A string of critical and financial failures with Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth seemed to, unfortunately, conclude the end of writer-director and twist talisman Shyamalan’s career. A slight resurgence in form producing the Twin Peaks-inspired Matt Dillon starring series Wayward Pines led to a new flowering of possible potential and slight reinvention. Only to be confirmed in the Blumhouse produced underground and found footage shot hit horror The Visit in 2015 that brought a significant stock to Shyamalan’s often questioned credentials.

However, the impetus of career reinvention came with his return to form in the once again Blumhouse produced Split in 2016. A film that unquestionably showed the signs of a masterful director long gone aloof in terms of atmospheric and nuanced conviction. Yet Shyamalan had one last slick trick up his enigmatic sleeve. A mid-credit sequence tying into the events of a superhero universe that has been touted about by the filmmaker for over two decades. The inclusion of Unbreakable‘s David Dunn with Bruce Willis reprising his role touting two significant words “Mr Glass”. A rousing conviction that Shyamalan would finish what he started almost two decades previously and that final albeit significant piece of the puzzle arrives in Glass.

Glass is the perfect embodiment and culmination of M. Night Shyamalan’s career. A film that conceptually follows a straight-laced and slightly predictable narrative similar to that of the generic burned out conventions in the established canon of genre. In this case, comic book films. Contextually touching upon a whole host of intoxicating notions that are approached in a meta-discussion of expectation and subversion. Glass on the outside may perhaps look like your limpid standard comic book fodder but inside a truly mendacious incisive narrative takes place. Constantly evolving and regressing. Best described as in-fighting battling against itself on purpose and threads. Winning many but losing a few.

Within the one hundred thirty minutes running time Shyamalan deconstructs and rebuilds upon the conventional narrative come to be expected. To put it simply – you are not getting the film you think you are. By advertently subverting the expected model/due process and ultimately the expectations of audiences in a self-reflecting manner. The film allows breathing space to question the merits of itself and the expectations of others. Especially in the films rather slow and elongated second act in which it contextually questions the human condition and at times breaking the fourth wall in terms of sizeable self-referential sequences on what will, or in fact what should develop. Spiralling and baiting with a delightfully excitable and trenchant glee. Many will question such large parameters and monologues on such and while they do hit with a substantial substance and resonate deeply in the films final act they are hefty in terms of screen time.

Glass, in general, will undoubtedly ruffle some feathers from fans of the series and critics who will find the fluidity and beats to be fractious and rebarbative. Some criticism certainly fair and others misguided. Shyamalan baits his audience to listen to what he has to say. A delightfully informative manner of delivery, which comes after each key action set piece that is depicted in an antagonising sense of delivery. Once he knows his audience is in his pocket, with eager anticipation he unfolds the films true form – verbal discussion and examination. It is a struggle one has to admit with the 19-year wait to have every opportunity of action sequences to be subverted, although the impact once again is far more resonating with the films closing act.

The film is disguised as a sequel to Unbreakable and while the opening sequence and credits would be a testament of such, Glass is unequivocally a pure sequel to Split. The aesthetic, pacing and cinematography all follow on from the penultimate sequel in the trilogy but the subdued nuance narrative is sadly thrown out the window. Exchanged to a rapidly eccentric edit by Luke Franco Ciarrocchi and Renaldo Kell that impresses with an intense bravado which complements the character arc of The Horde but loses the subtle gravitas of a slow but fortified sure impactful reveals. Of which here don’t hit their mark as precisely or effectively as they do on paper because of the rush and pace utilised. Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis returns to the fold after Split – a welcome return with another superbly crafted composition featuring delicious framing throughout. Although slightly soiled with the use of in-camera footage that is contextually adequate it often throws off the impact and atmospheric desired effect.

The utilisation of much of Split’s team is an efficient and understandable continuation, as Glass is once again James McAvoy’s film as The Horde and of course The Beast. McAvoy to put it frankly is outstanding. Utterly superb for the pure intensity and simplistic ease of how a character switches from emotional adamancy or ferocious anger can switch albeit a minuscule of a second later into a charismatic frolicsome delivery. It is a master class of screen presence and performance. Willis also impresses with a staple stoic intensity that doesn’t quite hit the heights of Unbreakable due to a lacking screen time, but the shadowy presence is superbly executed in conjunction with outstanding lighting throughout courtesy of production designer and set decorator Chris Trujillo and Olivia Peebles, respectively. Jackson is the lead with the lowest amount of screentime and the result is slightly lacking. The enigmatic charisma is here in abundance due to the talent and delivery that Jackson brings to Elijah Price aka Mr Glass but in the films climatic state, the character is let down tenfold by a lacking screenplay that doesn’t necessarily have the gravitas to suit such a magnificent character. Sarah Paulson also dazzles as Dr Ellie Staple, playing the bridge between film and audience. The role itself while not necessarily the forefront of the picture is an integral part of the machine, she drives the film forward with prowess. Even with three very colourful characters present Paulson establishes the character with superb screen presence due to the superb ability to deliver dialogue without missing a beat as well as terrific costume design by Paco Delgado.

Glass is in UK cinemas now.


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