Written & Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
M. Night Shyamalan was once the hottest young directing name in the business thanks to a string of stellar hits, including Unbreakable. But soon came a run of poor films which sunk his potential and promise and goodwill with the movie going public. But come 2017 with the release of Split, Shyamalan was once again on the Hollywood map. With his signature, game changing twist tying Split into the Unbreakable cinematic universe, fans were excited to see what he might make when assembling the talents of Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis and James McAvoy amidst a world so wonderfully created between those two films. Welcome Glass to the early 2019 movie season as one of the most anticipated of the first quarter. But anticipate it no longer, not because it has come, but because it’s actually pretty disappointing.
Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy) and his split personalities are at it again in Philadelphia, this time having kidnapped four cheerleaders, preparing them for an ill-fated ending at the hands of his 24th personality, the Beast. But David Dunn (Bruce Willis) has been patrolling the streets, dubbed “The Overseer” by the media, and with the help of his willing son (Spencer Treat Clark), he thwarts Crumbs nefarious plans, but unfortunately lands both of them in a psychiatric hospital at the hands of Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who hopes to treat the two for a mental condition she believes convinces them they are superheros, when in reality that are not. Crumb and Dunn soon discover a third patient, Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson), a mastermind who presents them with a plan for escape.
The most disappointing thing about this film is that, for everything it seemingly has going for it, it’s very surprisingly…boring. Unbreakable and Split were wonderfully mysterious and exciting films, so to bring those two together, with the talent on screen, M. Night Shyamalan’s greatest crime is delivering a screenplay and a film which feels half-baked. It’s as if Glass was a project that was rushed into with the promise of a good idea, not a project 19 years in the making with a known purpose the whole time. What results is a lot of scenes of the four main characters in the hospital staring at Sarah Paulson who spits off all these monologues about their insignificance. These long stretches take the mystique and intrigue out of the moodier set pieces which bring about a sense of suspense and an impending excitement which never comes.
Of course, building off of strong characters and strong worlds, there is plenty of promise in the proceedings as well. First among them, once again, is the performance of James McAvoy, who seamlessly transitions from personality to personality. It is a showy role to be sure, but one which McAvoy seems to have mastered over the two films. Willis and Jackson are, by comparison, largely wasted, especially Jackson who spends a large part of the film sitting in a wheelchair and staring off into space. But the story Shyamalan has hinted at throughout, the concept of who is a superhero, what are superpowers, and how do we not only define them in the “real world”, but also how do we cope with them as a society are big time themes and ideas which never come home and explore the topics in as much depth and intrigue as they should.
Shyamalan is at his best when he is giving us a suspenseful scene, and at his worst when trying to show us any sort of action. There are two notable action scenes in this film, one which is the climax near the end. Both struggled to keep me engaged and entertained in any meaningful way. He can’t shoot action. What results is a mish mash of great ideas, poor ideas and poor execution. When the film hits, it hits hard, but those times are so few that I would recommend skipping it altogether. Oh what could have been…