This review contains spoilers for Unbreakable, Split and Glass.
Glass is the highly anticipated super-sequel to M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable and Split. But is it worth the ticket price?
2000’s Unbreakable stars Bruce Willis as David Dunn, the sole survivor of the horrific Eastrail 177 train crash (from which this now-trilogy takes its name). He is tracked down and convinced by Elijah Price (Samuel L Jackson) that he is near-on invincible, and enjoys an extra-sensory perception beyond anything in a regular human being.
Dunn’s son Joseph (Spencer Treat Cook, who returns in the role for Glass) is convinced of his father’s strengths by Price, and helps Dunn develop into a vigilante that eventually fingers Price (or Mr. Glass) himself for the Eastrail crash – which was orchestrated to discover just how unbreakable Dunn is. Unbreakable is brilliant, and has built a large cult following over the years. It’s a film that is rightly well loved in a genre full of tiresome tropes and merchandise factories, and a standout film in Willis’ and Jackson’s respective, extensive careers.
Split is a completely different monster. Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), whose character was broken away from Unbreakable, is a serial killer whose Dissociative identity disorder takes the form of 24 entirely separate personalities known as The Horde. They are ruled over by The Beast, a super-strong being that takes a cocktail of animal strengths and unfettered rage. Crumb is obsessed with feeding the beast, abducting Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy, who also reprises her role) and school friends near the beginning of the film. Through shared trauma, The Beast eventually allows Cooke to escape from the basement of the Philadelphia zoo at its zenith.
Although Shyamalan’s depiction of DID raised some concerns about re-enforcing stigma, Split is a gripping horror where McAvoy shines in an elastic, captivating performance. The film closes with a shot of David Dunn – or The Oversee – watching news of the abductions, revealing its shared universe with Unbreakable.
Glass carries much of Split‘s visual style and is, in many ways, more focused on being a successor to its latter prequel. Willis, McAvoy and Jackson all reprise their roles valiantly, joined by a strong performance from Sarah Paulson as Dr. Ellie Staple, who borrows plenty in tone from her breakthrough work in American Horror Story.
Staple arrives early in the film to round Dunn and Crumb up midway through Dunn’s attempt at taking down The Beast. Dunn has been tracking down The Horde with the help of his son, and manages to free a group of cheerleaders in the process. The two are carted off to the same institution that Price has been incarcerated and supposedly sedated in since his capture 19 years ago.
Once the three are under one roof, Glass proceeds clumsily. Staple’s attempts at trying to convince Dunn, Glass and Crumb that they suffer delusions rather than possess powers are clunky, and the three escape their confinements with the aide of some fairly farcical plot holes.
As Glass stumbles towards a conclusion and concludes the arcs of its protagonists, it yearns to become the sum of its parts, but never really manages it. The film’s twist is on-brand for Shyamalan, but serves to dull the crescendo the film was marching towards instead of subverting it, and the final sequence feels a little forced and formulaic.
That said, Glass suffers from the success of its prequels, and there’s plenty to enjoy – Jackson, Willis and McAvoy are all excellent again, and it’s a beautifully shot two hours of film. Shyamalan is fantastic at giving the human condition to super-humans, and it’s still refreshing to see emotional drives rather than constant CGI take centre-stage in the genre.
Glass isn’t going to please everyone that loved Unbreakable and Split, but it’s still worth checking out at the cinema for its flaws.