Security guard David Dunn uses his supernatural abilities to track Kevin Wendell Crumb, a disturbed man who has twenty-four personalities.
Nineteen years after the film Unbreakable introduced us to the seemingly invincible David Dunn (Bruce Willis), we finally get the sequel M. Night Shyamalan always wanted to make. Glass stars the inimitable Samuel L. Jackson, reprising his role as Mr. Glass and given his own film. The aim of Glass is threefold in that it hopes to bridge itself to Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016) while giving Mr. Glass his own movie, and expanding the Shyamalan universe of stories into a franchise. The result is a film that builds a new world of storytelling possibilities while failing to give enough attention to each narrative, much less its title character.
We open on a gang of thugs who get their kicks beating up random strangers and uploading the videos to YouTube. David Dunn makes fast work of these ne’er-do-wells dispensing vigilante justice from the shadows. Now known as The Overseer among Philadelphia’s seedy sector, David has become a sort of a secretive hometown superhero. By day he and his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) run a security and surveillance supply store. By night, the two exact justice with Joseph at the command center and David in the field.
“…known as The Overseer…David has become a sort of a secretive hometown superhero.”
We next meet back up with Hedwig one of the many personas living in Kevin (James McAvoy). Pulling the same shenanigans as he did in Split, McAvoy’s character that hosts a myriad of personalities known as The Horde and is a joy to watch. As Kevin, he taunts a group of cheerleaders that are held captive. We are reminded what a crime it was that McAvoy wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar for Split, much less a Golden Globe as he flits about portraying characters, one after the other, with such total immersion. In Glass, he again gives us everything.
I know you want to hear about Glass, but no, not yet. David and The Beast, one of Kevin’s many personalities, have a run in and are immediately captured by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). Dr. Ellie specializes in treating patients that have delusions of being a superhero and whisks the pair away to a mental hospital just outside of the city.
So it is here, finally, roughly one hour into the film that we are reunited with Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson). He too is undergoing treatment for believing he is a superhero. Visited only by his long-suffering mother (Charlayne Woodard) he sits, silent, in his wheelchair in a padded room. As Dr. Ellie Staple begins treating the three of these men simultaneously, we are slowly introduced to their supporters. David’s son Joshua, Mr. Glass’ mother, and Kevin’s victim from Split, Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) all of whom are, for one reason or another, championing for the release of their loved ones. But of course, Mr. Glass is the brains in this movie, and he has a lot up his sleeve. It’s just a pity that it takes us 1 hour and 14 minutes into the 2 hr and 9-minute runtime before our title character gets to speak. (Oh, sorry, spoiler alert, he talks).
“We get flashes of sinister brilliance…McAvoy is the star of this one.“
The plot finally gets going, and we barely get enough time with the elegantly sinister Jackson before the second and third acts get the bum’s rush, and the credits begin to roll. This is not to say Glass is a bad film. It’s actually a pretty good one, to be honest. The issue is that Shyamalan doesn’t have the dexterity in storytelling to juggle so many through lines. He is a very linear kind of guy. It’s not a bad thing per se, just a thing that doesn’t work when you have so very much to say in a given time.
Willis is Willis here, doing the Bruce Willis thing, but being pretty damned good at it. Jackson is Jackson here given hardly enough material to warrant the film being named after him. We get flashes of sinister brilliance, but we are never offered the time to truly savor his villainy. McAvoy is the star of this one. This man is profanely good at exuding a riot of personalities with record speed. Paulson as the ring leader of treatment does a fine enough job but isn’t really given enough to work with here.
It is safe to say that M. Night has safely redeemed himself after a rather spotty period in the 00’s. Glass is not a perfect movie, but it is a consistently entertaining one. This is not a showcase for Samuel L. Jackson’s acting chops and sinister sassiness, but we do get some. Shyamalan‘s dialogue is a little wobbly but he writes a good story and he creates great characters. He just needs to work on motivations. Let’s hope that with the very open-ended close of Glass we see a few more tries at stories with a better balance of elements.
Glass (2019) Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat Clark.
6 out of 10 stars