The last decade has been tough for M. Night Shyamalan fans. Since creating a cinema gold mine and being talked about as the next Alfred Hitchcock or Steven Spielberg way back in 1999 with the box office smash The Sixth Sense, the world has had extremely high expectations for this man. Some would say that every movie he made after The Sixth Sense was progressively worse (I disagree, I adored Signs, it is one of my favourite movies), Shyamalan hit a roadblock when his attempt to bring Avatar: The Last Airbender to the live action big screen proved a most significant flop and the once acclaimed director struggled to find work.
So he started funding his own films and bounced back with a hit, in the form of Split, the James McAvoy lead horror about a man with multiple personalities, one of them being a supernatural, animal/human hybrid with super-human strength and the ability to climb walls, called The Beast. And it was a little teaser at the end of this film that got M. Night fan boys like my self all kinds of worked up. We saw Bruce Willis’ character from Shyamalan’s second film Unbreakable, IN THE SAME UNIVERSE AS SPLIT. IT WAS ALL CONNECTED!!! And that has led us to this years Glass.
Glass is set 19 years after the events of Unbreakable. Where David Dunn (Willis) was the sole survivor of a train crash, walking away without a scratch on him. He is approached by Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) who has a condition where he is left with fragile bones, or as the kids called him ‘Mr Glass’ and believes that if he exists in this world, somebody has to exist who is the exact opposite to him. Somebody who’s bones never break. Eventually Elijah convinces David that he is a superhero of sorts, and he was right. David had super strength and more importantly cannot be hurt. In a twist ending, which has become Shyamalan’s trademark, (SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO WATCH UNBREAKABLE) it turns out that Elijah set up the train that David was on to crash, and had caused several other horrific accidents in the search for his opposite. And if David is the hero, that must mean that Elijah is the Villain.
Fast forward 19 years, Elijah is being held in a special Psychiatric Hospital and David has taken on the hero role, stalking the streets of Philadelphia for bad guys. It’s while out on one of these nightly rounds that he comes across The Horde, a group of James McAvoy’s multi personalities that are pushing and support The Beast personality, who’s motivation is to pick on privileged people, believing that the broken are the truly strong. The Horde has a bunch of cheerleaders restrained in a dirty, old, abandoned warehouse, so David comes in to sort him out. The two throw down for a while before the authorities turn up and capture the both of them, throwing them into the same high security ward as Elijah. Now they are being examined by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who is trying to ground the belief that all these patients have in common, that they are superheros. Of course Elijah is having none of this, and proposes that The Horde and himself team up to inflict there own unique brands of terror upon the world, but can David stop them in time?
The first thing I’ve got to say is that it so nice to see M. Night’s style of storytelling back on the big screen. The man really knows how to use tension. His movies tend to be quiet, the characters are generally all soft spoken, which makes you lean in as a viewer, drawing you into the drama. And then BAM, he smacks you in the face. The ideas and themes brought up in the film are incredibly intriguing. It’s almost one big thesis on the mind sets of superheros and how their ‘powers’ can be explained with science. He is a very clever filmmaker, who always has you second guessing yourself, leading you to believe one thing and then taking the film and characters in a completely different direction.
I said this about him in Split, and I’ll say it about him again here: James McAvoy deserves at least an Oscar nomination for his role. The man is playing over 15 different personalities, sometimes all in the one scene. Often all it takes is simple mannerisms, or how he looks at you, but you always know which character he is playing. Whether it’s 9 year old Hedwig, or the super intense Dennis, it is utterly incredible acting, and I can’t commend it enough.
Samuel L. Jackson always has such a presence in film, no matter what role he is playing. And it’s a terrifying presence that he projects whilst playing Mr. Glass, you never know exactly what he is capable of. Bruce Willis is passable. Willis was one of my heros growing up, Die Hard is in my top 3 movies of all time, but lately his efforts all seem a little half-hearted. While he’s definitely not bad here by any means, of the three leads he is overshadowed.
The action in Glass is surprisingly good. In a time where cinema is saturated with superhero flicks, how would we expect an unlicensed movie like this to compete. With well constructed characters and well choreographed fight scenes. The way Shyamalan moves the camera during such scenes just adds a whole other dimension. For example, when The Beast and David are ripping into each other, some hospital workers get caught in the middle of it, and take refuge inside a van. David and The Beast take the fight to the van, but we witness it from inside the van, catching glimpses of the carnage outside as well as a few fist imprints denting the wall. It’s spectacular.
My only gripe is the movie feels a little long. Not unlike this review, there is a lot to cover so we can get to the real knitty gritty of these characters. Unfortunately this causes the film to lag a bit in the middle. But the many twists later in the piece make up for it, and left this Shyamalan fan very satisfied.
Surrounded by all the other blockbuster CGI-fests, Glass is a breath of fresh air. A well fleshed out thriller that will keep you guessing the whole time.
4 out of 5 – SHOULD WATCH