Film Review: GLASS (2019)

GLASS **** USA 2019 Dir: M Night Shyamalan. 129 mins

An origin story, not a limited edition. Following the shock reveal at the very end of his otherwise stand-alone chiller SPLIT, M Night Shyamalan finally fulfils his mission to transform UNBREAKABLE into a trilogy. And, in one of the best rug pulls of his career, the battle between the forces of good and evil anticipated by the earlier films results in a deliberately underplayed, emotional climax rather than the traditional superhero movie CGI-laden mayhem. Given all the obligations it has to meet and multiple character arcs to resume, this was never going to be as subtle and focused as UNBREAKABLE, with Shyamalan reviving various characters (both major and minor) from both precursors while tying their narratives together.
GLASS is a psychological thriller about comic book characters in the “real” world, and an unabashed celebration of the form itself, culminating with a revolutionary event that forever alters its own universe, in which (it seems) superhero movies do not exist as we know them. The set-up involves a widowed, semi-famous David Dunn (Bruce Willis, underused) incarcerated with SPLIT’s “Beast” (James McAvoy) and the megalomaniacal but catatonic Mr Glass (Samuel L Jackson) at Sarah Paulson’s experimental institution. She attempts to convince them that they are not superheroes / villains at all, while controlling the “superpowers” she strives to explain through science. Shyamalan has fun teasing a huge-scale action finale that he has no interest in delivering, instead offering a lo-fi, poignant final half-hour that’s true to the characters and tone of its predecessors. GLASS is overlong thanks to repetitive exposition and suffers from on-the-nose dialogue spelling out all the comic book parallels and references. SPLIT survivor Anya Taylor-Joy is one of several returning actors with little to work with, though McAvoy is afforded another mesmerising showcase as he oscillates between both familiar and hitherto unseen personalities. Unfashionably talky and heartfelt yet absorbing and affecting for those who buy into its world, this is another fine testament to Shyamalan’s talent.

Review by Steven West

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