M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Glass’ Under Review

As of writing this, M. Night Shyamalan’s latest offering, Glass, has a critics’ review of 36% on Rotten Tomatoes. Its predecessor, Split, has 77%. Unbreakable, the first in the trilogy, made in 2000, has 69%. Clearly, Split is the winner. I can see why. It’s a gritty psychological horror-thriller with a genuinely fascinating plot and a decently satisfying ending. M. Night Shyamalan’s reputation as a director is colourful to say the least. Somehow, he is the person who directed both The Sixth Sense (85%) and After Earth (11%… ouch). It’s hit and miss. 2015’s The Visit (66%) received a lukewarm reception from both audiences and critics, but I honestly enjoyed it, and like a lot of people I was just relieved it wasn’t a total dud. So, when Split was advertised, I was excited but apprehensive, and then when I watched it I thought it was great. It’s not perfect, but it is pretty dang good, and in no small part because James McAvoy is incredible in it. He manages to genuinely appear as a whole host of different characters despite only minor changes in costume, and sometimes nothing at all. The fact he can switch from being a middle-aged British woman to a nine year-old boy in the space of 30 seconds and somehow you totally believe it – almost see it – is amazing. I can’t help but think he is probably 90% of the reason the movie was received so well.

So, Glass is the convergence of Split and Unbreakable. James McAvoy is back as… a multitude of characters inside the body of tragic character Kevin Wendell Crumb, Bruce Willis is back as Bruce Willis but older, and Samuel L. Jackson returns as Elijah Price a.k.a. ‘Mr Glass’. Unbreakable, like Split, is a film driven by ambiguity. We never quite know whether it’s supernatural or not, and whether the characters are delusional or genuinely in possession of superhuman abilities. This concept essentially becomes the central theme of Glass, wherein our trio are gathered together to be researched by morally questionable psychiatrist Sarah Paulson in order to investigate the validity of their claims. Here is where the film becomes a problem. The ambiguity is what makes these movies interesting. Even though the answer is heavily suggested, the first two never smack you in the face with it. Glass does a fairly good job of this too, until the last 20 minutes. Honestly, if the last 10-20 minutes of the film were completely cut, I think this film would be ten times better.

I’m not with the majority of critics in that I found it to be an overall really good film, and not just that, but a unique and thought-provoking one too. The subversion of both the superhero genre and the psychological thriller genre makes for a watching experience that doesn’t feel formulaic and maintains interest throughout. I had no desire to look at my watch at any time during it, and that’s a big deal for me, as I have a terrible attention span. The fact that it’s not quite a thriller, not quite supernatural, not quite superhero, seems to be what a lot of critics dislike about it. However, I think that if M. Night Shyamalan had fully committed to any of those things, the problem would have been much bigger. But then again, that is with me essentially discounting the last 20 minutes, which I suppose I can’t do, because they do happen whether I like it or not.

The fact that this is the end for all three characters, particularly Bruce Willis, I find slightly disappointing. Like I said, Unbreakable is a great movie because of its ambiguity, and that means that it is quite slow in its evolution and the revelation doesn’t happen until very late in the film. Therefore, the concept isn’t explored fully, which is a shame because I would love to watch a movie about what happened to him after he accepted his new ‘persona’ and the complexities that came with it. I hoped Glass might go in to it all a bit more, but it didn’t. It’s very glossed over and apparently after 19 years he’s just keeping on keeping on, somehow still undiscovered, with the help of his now adult son (kudos awarded though because it is the actual actor from the first movie all grown up, which is pretty cool).

Overall, it’s good. I recommend it. You’ll at least enjoy it even if it’s not your cup of tea. The titular character ‘Mr Glass’ is probably the least interesting character, at least to me, but that is also part of what makes him such a good villain. You can never quite feel sorry for him or make sense of what he does, but it leads to more of a pity than a hatred. That’s what I really like and find unique about this film, the humanity. Our ‘superheroes’ aren’t particularly super or particularly heroes, and the villain, despite his best efforts, doesn’t come across as suave or glamourised. I can’t say whether M. Night Shyamalan intended all of this, maybe I’m desperately grasping for meaning because I can’t stand the idea of James McAvoy’s stellar performance going to waste on a medium movie. Or maybe not. This aspect of humanity also manages not to feel overly contrived, so it’s just a shame that it’s given a minor role compared to the dramatic and OTT direction that’s taken in the conclusion. Basically, go and watch this movie. It’s better than the critics say, for sure, but if you do feel the need to go and get a snack about ten minutes before the end, that wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Glass is showing all week at the Commodore Cinema until Thursday 7th February, at 7:30pm