Emma Kiely reviews the surprise follow-up to Unbreakable and Split.
M. Night Shyamalan’s latest picture Glass, is the final instalment of his Eastrail 177 Trilogy following Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016). It picks up three weeks after the final scene of Split; McAvoy’s character, a man suffering from a profound case of DID (Dissociative identity disorder; more commonly known as “split personality disorder”) has twenty-four different personalities inside him: from a nine-year-old boy called “Hedwig” to a monstrous, cannibalistic superhuman called “The Beast”. The kidnapping and murder of young girls carried out by McAvoy’s character has caught the attention of David Dunn (or, as coined by the press, “The Overseer”, the hero of the first film in the series), taking it upon himself to bring karma to criminals who have evaded the justice system.
“McAvoy gives a bizarre but extremely impressive performance as a DID patient, transforming into about ten different characters within two minutes”
Both men are incarcerated in a facility which has been the home to the fragile and villainous comic book nerd Mr. Glass (Jackson) for fifteen years. The three are assessed by Dr. Ellie Staple (Paulson) who specialises in what she perceives as the three men’s delusion in grandeur and seeks to find possible, rational and easily explainable reasons for the men’s seemingly superhuman abilities. What follows is a clash of three men who fight, some for good and some for evil, but all to prove that they are indeed “real-life superheroes”, each with one ally to prove this.
This film is without a doubt a must-see for everyone, superhero fan or not. With the hype surrounding the Golden Globe and Oscar favourites it would be easy to look past this film, especially without having seen the first two entries, but would be ignoring an entertaining, poignant and utterly fantastic viewing experience. As in Split, McAvoy gives a bizarre but impressive performance as a DID patient, transforming into about ten different characters within two minutes, speaking Spanish, seducing male nurses and looking convincingly alien. Casey (Taylor-Joy) returns after being spared by the Beast and their monster-victim complex is an interesting relationship tangent in the film, giving an alternative approach to Stockholm Syndrome and humanising a somewhat “non-human” man.
Willis and Jackson inhabit their characters after nineteen years as though no time has passed. David Dunn is still the hero trying to accept the full extent of his power whilst maintaining a somewhat “normal” life with his now grown son, while Jackson’s character is too spoiler-y to discuss but exists in a delicious moral grey area. The parallels between the film and the structure of comic-book narratives is similar to how the Scream film franchise follows the “rules” of horror films, which makes the film a must-watch for comic geeks and superhero fans alike. Add Sarah Paulson, who is always a delight to watch, as female psychiatrist for the three men in a perfect touch which couldn’t have been done better by any other actress.
“It follows the men as they question everything they think they know about themselves and depicts our chronic need to analyse, diagnose and understand everything about the human race”
Glass could be Shyamalan’s best directed film. His change of long shot and close ups, following the actors from behind and front, and even holding the camera as though it is attached to one of the characters as they are being attacked keeps the audience on edge throughout the entire film. He does so without being manic or disorienting; the film feels perfectly woven together, tweaked to perfection, with no scene ever going on too long or feeling too short. Similar is the dialogue; distinct, to the point without feeling like lazy-writing, aiding in the guidance of the audience to a meeting-point of many different origin stories and character narratives.
The film alludes to many themes that pull on the heartstrings. It follows the men as they question everything they think they know about themselves and depicts our chronic need to analyse, diagnose and understand everything about the human race. What these three men embody is that the diversity and extremities of humankind cannot always be explained. Paulson’s character represents our paralysing fear of the unknown, whilst the three men’s counterparts, Dunn’s son, Glass’ mother and Casey embody the celebration and liberation from an unattainable certainty. By the end of the film, you will have no idea who is good and who is evil and, in true Shyamalan style, there is a surprise waiting.
In a nutshell: Its mixture of themes, stellar acting and crafty directing makes this one of Shyamalan’s most impressive works.