At the dawn of the new millennium, following the success of The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan crafted a smart, subtle & subversive feature that wasn’t just way ahead of its time but even today remains one of the most unique examples of its genre. Mismarketed by the studio back then as something along the lines of Shyamalan’s previous film when in actuality it was the deconstruction of the superhero genre, Unbreakable turned out to be a box-office failure but has garnered an astonishing cult following over the years, and is now widely regarded as the first grounded superhero film. Making clever use of all the comic-book archetypes, the film remains one of the finest origin stories of a superhero to surface on the silver screen.
Then back in 2017, after years of failure & on his road to recovery, Shyamalan crafted a psychological horror thriller concerning an unstable man with 23 different personalities and within the final moments, inserted an epilogue that changed the dynamic of all the events that unfolded before. Split became the most unexpected & unlikely of all follow-up instalments, for its story was set within the same universe as Unbreakable, and it was indeed an origin story of a supervillain, in contrast to Unbreakable being the origin story of a superhero. Regarded as Hollywood’s first stealth sequel and also notable as the first solo supervillain origin movie, the film paved the way for the third film that would unite the two narratives and will serve as the conclusion of the entire saga.
Set 4 years after the events of the previous film, the story of Glass concerns David Dunn aka The Overseer, a superhumanly strong & invulnerable vigilante who, with the help of his son, manages to track down the location of Kevin Wendell Crumb aka The Horde, the superhuman Beast who has got multiple personalities residing within him. However, the ensuing fight between the two is interrupted by the arrival of cops, following which both are captured and confined to a mental asylum that also houses Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass, a superhumanly intelligent mass murderer & comic book theorist. But they soon have to contend with a psychiatrist who is out to prove that the trio do not actually possess any superhuman abilities and tries to convince them that their powers are merely delusions.
Written & directed by M. Night Shyamalan, the film quickly brings the two superhumans from their respective origin stories within the same frame before separating them just as quickly and then proceeds to pave the groundwork for the main premise which kicks in with the introduction of the titular character. Shyamalan’s approach is different from the norm, for he is patient with the plotting, allows sufficient space for characters to breathe, keeps everything as grounded & rooted in reality as was the case in previous entries, and still keeps the whole affair interesting & gripping. Despite it being the final instalment of the series, there is no sense of urgency to the flow of events and the final confrontation it was always headed towards comes imbued with Shyamalan’s signature twist which may disappoint some.
Among the technical aspects, the one element that stands out is the use of colour palette, employing different tints for different characters (green for Dunn, mustard for Crumb & purple for Price), all set against a cold, pale & monochromatic backdrop. Camerawork is neat, manoeuvring is smooth, and the use of lighting & shadows is spot-on too. Majority of the plot unfolds at the mental institution and the Production Design team makes sure to give that set piece a facelift that magnifies its bleak & unwelcoming aura as intended. Editing paces the narrative at a relaxed but steady pace and isn’t a concern for the major portion of its 129 minutes runtime. But the third act is convoluted, somewhat hurried & awfully executed and that’s where the film started falling apart for me before redeeming itself to an extent with the always expected twist ending. And last but not the least, West Dylan Thordson contributes with a score that has a fresh quality yet familiar feel to it.
Coming to the performances, Glass features a fascinating ensemble in Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis & James McAvoy who reprise their respective roles from earlier instalments. The supporting cast includes Spencer Treat Clark, Anya Taylor-Joy & Charlayne Woodard, returning as Joseph Dunn, Casey Cooke & Mrs. Price respectively, while the new addition includes Sarah Paulson, playing the role of a psychiatrist who specialises in delusions of grandeur. McAvoy effortlessly steals the limelight with a versatile rendition, switching to varying personalities at will yet embodying almost all of them. Jackson also chips in with a strong input and the presence of his character plus what his sinister mind may be up to looms the film at all times. Willis is no slouch either but his performance is the weak link in the trio. Sarah Paulson makes us despite her character without even trying. The rest of the supporting cast play their roles right, with Taylor-Joy standing out most among them.
On an overall scale, Glass is a lot better, way more thrilling & much more satisfying than what the critical consensus deems it to be. Sure there are mishaps along the road but the film stays true to its origins. It takes a detour on the final confrontation that the plot had been building towards, not to mention that the unnecessary verbal exposition during the third act kind of ruins it completely. I really wish Shyamalan had written that particular segment differently or found another way to depict the same because what’s in the final print is off-putting & facepalm-inducing. Nevertheless, the patented Shyamalan twist does salvage it a little and provides a proper closure to the saga. Some of the richness evident in the script is lost during its translation on the film canvas, and there are some layers to it that remain unexplored as well but there are still a lot many things that Glass does right. It isn’t quite the grand finale we were hoping for but a lot of creative decisions that goes into it make sense in retrospect. And due to that, it may as well be on its way to achieving a cult status amongst fans which wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Do yourself a favour and give it a shot. Multiple viewings advised.