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Glass review: should have tried harder

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Glass is the final part of the Unbreakable/Split trilogy. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, it sees the three protagonists David Dunn (Bruce Willis), Samuel M Jackson (Elijah Price) and Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Horde (James McCoy) detained by Dr Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). She aims to capture, examine and convince the trio they’re not superhuman and that in fact, superheroes do not exist.

Like many of Shyamalan’s other films, Glass promises an intriguing concept but is let down somewhat by Shyamalan’s ability to maintain both pace and plot. While Glass is a very competent film, it’s not the film fans of Unbreakable and Split will be satisfied by. In fact, it leaves many unanswered questions and hints of new story strands that could see life past the trilogy.

While I’ll avoid spoilers here, I need to voice my disappointment that at least two of the major characters were significantly under-written. One in the first half of the movie, the other in the second part.

The resolution for one character is so jarringly pointless and anti-climactic that I was left wondering if Shyamalan had simply run out of ideas. It’s a poor end to a character that should have been more pivotal to the story.

On the plus side, James McCoy is magnificent. So much so, at times it feels more like a sequel to Split than the final chapter of the trilogy. His ability to switch between multiple personas is expertly highlighted during an interrogation scene shared with Sarah Paulson.

Samuel L Jackson and Bruce Willis both give excellent performances when called upon. Jackson allowed enough scenery to chew with Willis given plenty of moody staring into the middle distance shots. I found it incredibly satisfying to see both Jackson and Willis back in their respective character costumes.

The highlight of the supporting cast are Spencer Treat Clark, reprising his role as Dunn’s son Joseph and Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke –  a survivor from Split. Clark and Willis show an authentic father-son connection, something that echoes the crucial bond formed in Unbreakable. Taylor-Joy shows how her character has more than hatred for her abductor – displaying great empathy as she’s used to create as an anchor in the world of the abused Wendell Crumb.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Paulson. Her character is used more as an explanatory tool for the plot. There are too many scenes where, Dr Evil style, she explains every detail and revelation to cast and audience. Shyamalan undersells his audience in these moments, hammering plot points home with very little subtlety.

However, there are some nice touches in Glass – deleted scenes from Unbreakable are used in flashbacks and we hear refrains from the Unbreakable score throughout. The much-discussed use of colour to denote the characters power/purpose is evident and well used. This is particularly noticeable in a scene with Clark set in a comic store.

The make-up department deserves a special mention for quite possibly the worst ageing make-up I’ve seen in a decade. Charlene Woodward (Mrs Price) looks like her prosthetics were made by Play-Doh. It’s a real shame as it screams at the audience every time she is on screen, detracting from her performance.

While unevenly paced, Glass provides enough moments to showcase our (anti) heroes abilities. Sound design and score are both fine, especially in scenes when The Beast is present. Shyamalan utilises his trademark camera shots and even manages a small cameo that links all three films together.

It’s emerged Shyamalan self-financed the $20 million budget for the film, an amount which by modern Hollywood standards is extremely low. There are moments in the film where this is felt and I couldn’t help but think that the story itself was the biggest victim. With a bigger budget would the story have been allowed to step out into a bigger landscape?

Due to 75% of the filming complete in one location, Glass feels like an incredibly small.

Many filmmakers have utilised single locations in their work, with some managing to convey a sense of space far better than anything on display here. It could be argued that this was intentional, that the smaller scale was meant to portray the sense of confinement felt by the characters. I could take on board if the climactic scenes weren’t filmed on what appeared to be a front lawn. Pushing the movie and characters further into the outside world would have made Glass’ agenda far more potent and effective than the way it plays out on screen.

Ultimately, Glass is a victim of its predecessors’ success. Both Unbreakable and Split respectively challenged the viewer to examine the strength of the human spirit and the depths of despair the human mind can go to. Glass never attempts to do anything like this, as it never tries to out Marvel the Marvel formula.

Ok, the ‘twist’ at the end is clever, but it’s not as unexpected or shocking as that of The Sixth Sense.

Glass seems to be content with merely being a good film. If it were a school report, it would say “Should have tried harder.

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