GLASS (2019)

***Spoilers Alert***

  • Release Date: 18/01/2019
  • Director: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Cast: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard.

Before I begin this review, I request anyone interested in this film to first watch Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016) if they haven’t done so already. This review will be for Glass but there will be a lot of fallbacks on the previous two films to get to certain points. It must also be noted that Glass will feel superficial and almost incomprehensible at certain points without the knowledge of the first two films for any viewer.

Glass starts right after the events of Split (2016). The Horde (James McAvoy) has just kidnapped some more girls and is waiting for the arrival of The Beast (one of the many entities of the Horde) to feast on them. David Dunn (Bruce Willis) aided by his son Joseph Dunn (Spencer Treat Clark) has been doing some vigilante work saving and avenging people and after the arrival of The Horde has been in the lookout for him. Soon Dunn crosses path with Hedwig (one of the many entities of the Horde) as he is searching for the missing girls and faces of against The Horde.

He is able to save the girls but both he and The Horde are captured and sent to a mental institution for treatment under Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). Dr. Staple specializes in curing people who have the delusion of having superhuman abilities. The institution is already home to Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), who was apprehended and handed over to the authorities by David Dunn in Unbreakable (2000). As Dr. Staple tries to rid the trio of their delusion of grandeur, a much more sinister game is afoot that threatens to blow the lid of a can of worms that mankind has been oblivious to all this while.

Unlike what the popular opinion is for this film, Glass proved to be a fitting finale to one of the most audacious attempts at making something real with the super-hero/comic book genre for me. The film remains realistic and that is one of its greatest fortes. As one watches it, it’s hard not to believe that something similar could actually happen. Elijah Price has superhuman intelligence that he has garnered over the years that he has spent on beds doing nothing but reading. Dunn has extraordinary strength and is somewhat impervious to pain. That again is something that can be found in some rare cases. The Horde has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), a psychological condition that has been widely documented to have shown some miraculous feats being performed by the split personalities of the same person. Thus, The Horde is a serial killer with DID. Once we are able to accept this, the film quickly takes us into its fold.

Shyamalan is a master storyteller and he keeps the action to a minimum and whenever there is any, he ensures that it never breaches the barrier of or even borders on being unrealistic. The action sequences use a lot of POV (point of view) shots that irritated many viewers but it worked fine for me as it ensured that the action sequences never got out of hand and in a way added an interesting physicality to it. Don’t take my words for it, just watch the bit in the trailer where The Horde topples a police car and you will get my point.

The film follows a classic comic book pattern in its layout, framing, cinematography and edits. As was the case with Unbreakable, the sequences of this film can be easily envisioned as panels from a well drawn and serious comic book. Over the last few years, I have had a chance to read some of the best in comic books and I could spot multiple references and similarities between the two. The fact that films and comics are similar in flow and execution style, it only makes the approach that much more organic.

Glass is a beautifully shot and crisply edited film that has a first 20 minutes that would make anyone stand up and take notice. The manner in which Dunn tracks down The Horde, battles him and saves the girls is so well envisioned, executed and acted that it made me think how the director would top that in the rest of the film’s screenplay. Understandably, he is not able to. Many have sighted the next portion of the film which unfolds in the institution to have dragged unnecessarily.

This I could have agreed with but this is where James McAvoy takes charge and doesn’t let the viewer’s attention slip. He is exceptional in this portion and the manner in which he snaps between different characters was phenomenal. Everytime he shares the screen with any other actor, he practically gobbles up your attention and that happens without even him trying. I have never liked him more in any other film. Also, this portion may be a slow burn but rewards us handsomely for our patience in the end because this is where the game is set into motion by one of the characters right in front of our eyes but we never get hold of it.

The third act of the film has been the most maligned and it has been so for the path that the story takes. Again, I had no issues with the turn of events. Evidently, the ending opens up a whole universe of possibilities for Shyamalan to work with in the future. Even if that is not taken into account, I felt that the story really worked for me but in doing that it did leave a lot of unanswered questions which is bound to bother a lot of viewers.

That brings me to my issues with the film. Bruce Willis’ character is reduced to a glorified special appearance. For someone who is the protagonist of the whole story, his character is reduced to nothing more than a mere element to further the plot. Samuel L. Jackson is sensational as Glass but he too is barely there. He remains silent for atleast two-thirds of the film, but when he does come into his own, it is even sadder to realize what great things could have been done with his character but wasn’t done.

Sarah Paulson‘s character is part of an organization that is entrusted with maintaining a balance between the normal humans and the ones with superhuman abilities. Her job in the film is to brainwash the three and make them believe that they are actually ordinary and all their superhuman abilities are nothing more than scientifically quantifiable strokes of good luck and craft combined. She willingly exposes herself and her organization to David in the end. Why did she have to do that? Her feelings about her work with the three are also shown to be mixed which I couldn’t fathom. Her organization is also equally underdeveloped and leaves a lot to be desired.

The final fate of the three primary characters in the climax is also bound to raise some eyebrows on the manner in which the people related to them react to their respective fates. I was also constantly questioning the ease with which the inmates played with the security of the institution. Elijah is walking in and out of rooms with clinical ease. The Horde, even after being an assimilation of so many intellects and personalities, just cannot understand to close his eyes when the lights designed to trigger his personality changes are fired. These are many such things that could easily have been thought out better.

Having said all that, I still loved Glass. This is a film that deserves multiple views to sink in all that is on display. I have an uncanny feeling that it might just get better in subsequent viewings. The film uses a lot of elements from the previous films in the form of flashbacks which I loved but would have loved more if I was able to tie them in with the style and presentation of the material. That is something I couldn’t in one viewing (not enough processing speed). With all its pros and cons, Glass is still one of the rare un-missable films of our times. Watch it for James McAvoy, if not anything else.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

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