James McAvoy gives an exceptional performance as Kevin Wendell Crumb, but the film is overly reliant on his and his co-stars performances.
Rarely do cinematic stories combine to give us such a potential treat. Even rarer do these events come to us via the mind of one of cinema’s most intriguing writers and directors. Glass, however, is one of these occasions and is brought to us by M Night Shyamalan as he combines the characters of Elijah / Mr Glass (Samuel L Jackson) and David Dunn (Bruce Willis) from the legendary 2001 mystery thriller Unbreakable and Kevin Wendell-Crumb, who is one of many of James McAvoy’s personalities from Shyamalan’s 2017 thriller Split. Those two films are two of Shymalan’s most successful and most beloved films, but is Glass the final piece of the trilogy that the two films deserved?
We’ll get to that bit later. As the final film in the trilogy, Glass picks up from where Split left off, with Miss Patricia, one of Kevin Wendell Crumb’s identities, walking calmly into a room where four school-aged cheerleaders are tied to a railing, with Crumb keeping the girls as hostages, preparing them for the emergence of The Beast. The disappearance of the girls does not go un-noticed however, and David Dunn and his now grown-up son Joshua (Spencer Treat Clark) investigate the missing girls from their family-run security business. With Joseph’s intelligence suggesting the girls are in a particular area of the city, David goes for one of his ‘walks’ and after brushing into another one of Crumb’s identities- a 9 year old wannabe rapper named Hedwig, Dunn breaks into the abandoned loft where the girls are kept, just as Crumb becomes The Beast. Dunn and The Beast become embroiled in a fight, with Crumb shocked as to how much pain Dunn can endure, the pair end up crashing through a window and are stopped in their tracks by the authorities, led by Dr Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychiatrist who specialises in the incredibly niche condition people who believe they are superheroes. Dunn and Crumb are taken to a psychiatric ward as Staple does her best to convince them they’re wrong about their supernatural gifts.
It’s such a shame that the rest of the film doesn’t live up to the beginning, and the end, for that matter, because it’s a very enjoyable watch with a great pace to the first 20 minutes and again, picks up about 20 minutes towards the end. Almost everything else in the middle however, is a let down. The onus is very much on the psychological aspect of Crumb’s condition, which if it had been slightly more fine-tuned, would have been fine, but it’s almost gimmicky in some aspects and ends up being overly reliant on McAvoy’s ability to switch between identities, which in itself becomes more of a roulette, rather than anything particularly more valuable or interesting. Shyamalan also almost focuses entirely on Elijah and Crumb for the majority of their time in the ward, with Dr Staple seemingly forgetting about Dunn. Again, this would be fine if Elijah’s screen time was showing him to be as calculative as he is supposed to be and Dunn’s character didn’t have such a big part to play in the end, but it’s almost like Dunn is shoe-horned in when needed, which is a huge shame because Bruce Willis’ performance is so enjoyable to watch.
Speaking of the performances, Willis’ excellent portrayal is just one from a very impressive cast. Sarah Poulson is superb as the menacing and wicked Dr Staple, Paulson manages to give an incredibly classy and ultra-convincing performance of a psychiatric Dr who’s intentions are kept hidden by her cold approach to the patients. Samuel L Jackson treats us to a brilliant performance that sees him switch from being a muted and downtrodden psychiatric patient to a calculated and methodical evil genius that comes into his own towards the end. There are also some nice performances from Spencer Treat Clark, who brings some needed comic relief and has a great chemistry with Willis and Anya Taylor-Joy gives a subtle performance as Casey as she returns from her role in Split. James McAvoy, however, steals the show, showing us many sides of Crumb’s split personality and executes them so impressively. He’s flirty, funny, shy, empowering, calm and menacing and totally transforms into The Beast when called upon. Glass, though, sadly relies far too much on the performances of it’s cast, no more so than the electrifying James McAvoy who lifts the film whenever he is on screen.
The concept for Glass, despite a great beginning and an enjoyable end, feels rushed for the most part. As fun as the ending is, the last 5 minutes are laid so bare that the very thing that we’ve known and loved from Shyamlan, his plot twists, become so unimpressive. We’ve all become accustomed to M Night Shymalan’s twists in the films he works on and needless to say, there are more than a few twists in Glass; some that work, and some that don’t. To be honest, you don’t even need me to explain them to you. You’ll love a particular throwback, and feel slightly let down by the Dunn’s vision towards the end of the film, and to me, this perfectly sums up the lack of genuine ideas. So, is Glass the final part of the trilogy that the previous films deserve? No. Given how popular Unbreakable is and how excited we all were with Shyamalan’s return to form with Split, Glass really is underwhelming for most of the film and can’t even be saved by some of Shyamalan’s twists, but it can be saved by some fantastic performances.
Glass is released by Walt Disney Studios and Universal Pictures on 18th January.