Is M. Night Shyamalan’s second hot streak finished? Maybe, but probably not entirely.
Glass is the newest film from M. Night Shyamalan, the conclusion of his Eastrail 177 Trilogy that began with Unbreakable in 2000 and continued with Split in 2016. In Glass, David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) are captured and end up in the same psychological hospital as Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson). Whereas Unbreakable and Split were mostly plot-driven, Glass can be seen as more of a character piece.
Even though it is named after him, Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr. Glass is not the focus of this movie. He doesn’t become a significant part of the story until at least halfway through the runtime, not even having a line in the first half. That being said, when he does become a player in the story, he is loads of fun to watch, and his interactions with the other characters are fun to watch. It is great to see the rivalry between David Dunn and Mr. Glass return, and the dynamic between Mr. Glass and Kevin Wendell Crumb is quite intriguing. Jackson is obviously having a fun time playing the character, if only he were given more to do.
David Dunn is again the hero of this film, although he doesn’t have the most screen time. That may be a good thing. It is sad to say that this is one of the better performances by Bruce Willis as of late, but his delivery still wasn’t great. Willis can’t really act anymore. He was very flat and monotonous, and didn’t bring the same humanity to the character that he did in Unbreakable. That being said, the character is still compelling, especially with the continuance of the storyline between Dunn and his son. There are some interesting things happening in that story, even if it isn’t the most fully-developed.
The character that takes the most screen time in the movie is Kevin Wendell Crumb, the antagonist of Split. McAvoy’s performance is still amazing, as his transitions are seamless and drastic. His range is thoroughly impressive. It was nice to see even more of Kevin’s twenty-four “alters”, the personalities which share his body. That being said, Shyamalan didn’t do a great job of further developing this character’s arc. There are some interesting ideas, especially involving the “alter” Dennis, but these are never fully developed. Instead, Crumb is mostly doing the same thing he did in the last film. “The Beast” also plays a bigger role in this movie, but it is pretty ridiculous, and almost laughable at times.
The single worst part of this film, though, is the way in which Shyamalan chose to take the character Casey Cooke, who was the protagonist of Split. For some reason, Shyamalan chose to go in the Stockholm Syndrome direction with the character, and it is so unsettling and cringe-worthy. Anya Taylor-Joy is one of the most talented up-and-coming actresses, and her performance isn’t bad, but she wasn’t given anything particularly good to do. It was definitely very frustrating to see this talent wasted.
The new addition to the series, Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) is likely the most interesting character in the entire movie. There is quite a bit of moral ambiguity surrounding the character and most of the film focuses on trying to understand her. Paulson’s performance is great and required a lot of range (although not nearly as much as McAvoy’s performance). Although Shyamalan seems to have planned this as a trilogy, it would be interesting to see a sequel (or even better — a prequel) focusing on Paulson’s character.
The rest of the supporting characters are a mixed bag. The movie should be admired for bringing back many of the cast members from previous films, such as Spencer Treat Clark, who played David Dunn’s son and Charlayne Woodard who played Elijah’s mother in Unbreakable. The way in which Shyamalan developed them in Glass was questionable, as they did add some more emotional resonance to the movie, but they also felt underdeveloped and cheesy. Shyamalan also cheesily reprised his cameo from the previous two films.
Overall, Glass isn’t a great movie, but it is a fun time and an interesting character study. It will divide fans, but if you can look at it for what it is, you should have a good time.
Glass opens in theaters January 18.