Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Sarah Paulson, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson
Rated PG-13 for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements and language.
2 hrs., 9 min.
There will be no clear consensus on the film Glass. As dense as three layers of shag carpet, director M. Night Shyamalan is asking a lot when he combines elements of Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016) into a Freudian analogy of comic books, hero mythology and psychiatric analysis.
According to Shyamalan, this is the final chapter of his trilogy of sorts, though you may not recognize it as such until well into the movie. More a trilogy of ideas than an actual sequential film series, he has pulled these stories together into a final showdown between David Dunn, Elijah Price and the 24 personalities of Kevin W. Crumb.
Following the escape of Split’s Crumb (James McAvoy) from the bowels of the Philadelphia Zoo, teenage girls are once again being kidnapped and murdered. Dunn (Bruce Willis) and his son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), run a small home security business in downtown Philadelphia. Behind the scenes, they’re high-tech vigilantes trying to rid Philadelphia of criminals.
Dunn, with his strength and extra sensory perception via physical contact, has been searching the streets for the perp who is murdering the girls, presumably right in his neighborhood. When he accidentally bumps into Crumb on the street, he receives a vision of where the victims are and zeroes in.
Rescuing the girls, he comes face to face with Crumb’s beast mode and a fight ensues. Forced into the open street, they are captured and taken to Raven Hill Memorial Psychiatric Research Center, where they are placed under the care of Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). It just so happens that Staple is also treating Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) aka Mr. Glass.
Staple brings the three of them together in a group therapy session and tells them that she has three days to convince them they are not superheroes. Otherwise, what? Honestly, I don’t know. Call it a plot necessity. Call it strange therapy. You just gotta roll with it. Needless to say, it’s up to the boys (and an occasional girl personality) to figure out how to free themselves.
As we have learned over the last 20 years, Shyamalan doesn’t do standard narrative films. His characters are more idea than human, and in his stories he likes to explore the metaphysical via ghost stories, fairy tales, alien life and the supernatural. This makes his films both interesting and frustrating. Always blessed with a gift for visual style, his stories can be either stimulus or head scratchers — or both.
In terms of ideas and storylines, on a scale of 1-10, this film is probably a 5. While this may be a trilogy in Shyamalan’s mind, it feels forced and the use of a psychiatric facility to bring the three main characters together is a real groaner, especially when Staple’s specialty — helping people with superhero syndrome — is identified. What? They send you to school for this?
But as usual, Shyamalan’s talent manages to pull together three characters who are as different as snowflakes, yet have a synergy that is compelling. McAvoy in particular cycles through his characters at a remarkable speed and the transition is seamless. Jackson is smugly wicked, even from a wheelchair, and Willis still has the charisma to convey what I call a tough empathy. Think Gary Cooper.
The whole of this film is not equal to its parts, but the parts manage to keep you guessing and maintain a certain energy throughout. In the end, you will probably ask the same question you always do at the end of a Shyamalan film: What have I just watched? In this case, I’m not sure. Something of a tribute to comic books, himself, metaphysics? One thing is certain: The man knows how to keep you guessing, even if what he serves you feels like a half-baked piece of fruit cake.