Review: ‘Glass’ (masterminded misdirection)

Extraordinary people… or people who only think they’re extraordinary?

Years after accepting the truth of his power, David Dunn (Bruce Willis) still helps out where he can with assistance from his man-in-chair son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark). Following the events of Split, the father-and-son team are hot on the trail of Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), again kidnapping victims to feed to “The Beast,” one of Kevin’s twenty-four personalities. When a confrontation between hero and villain is interrupted, both David and Kevin are taken to a secure mental hospital equipped to handle their unique characteristics. Under the care Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), both men begin treatment for their “delusions of being super-powered,” but her first patient at the facility needs no introduction: confessed mass-murder Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) — who prefers to be called “Mister Glass.”

In 2000, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan took a career risk: riding high on the success of The Sixth Sense, his Unbreakable follow-up dared to deconstruct comic book heroes and villains as modern-day Greek myth, one that may be rooted in obscured fact. A full decade before Marvel stole the box office with their powered pantheon of characters, M. Night’s idea was more conceptual, one so obscure that an overthinking megalomaniac was driven to murder hundreds to prove he was right. After a surprise return to success with The Visit, the film Split turned out to be a secret sequel to Unbreakable, but can the controversial filmmaker finish his trilogy in style to fulfill the promise of his premise?

There’s a moment in almost every Shyamalan film — often termed “the twist” but not always so — where viewers either buy into the idea or they don’t. The Visit proved the director understands his own power, that he can use expectation to misdirect and still surprise like (using his own example) a master magician. Glass goes back to the beginning to tell a story that not only encompasses what audiences already know but why it’s known… and even why it isn’t. In the best possible Fox Mulder “X-files” kind of way, those who want to believe will be well rewarded.

The film already has its detractors, but true fans don’t seem to be fooled. With a reportedly self-financed $20 million budget shot on Pennsylvania locations with the cinematographer of It Follows, this is a bargain of a film poised to make a mint if it can find its niche. Glass is well-acted, tightly scripted, and returns everything viewers put in three-fold, but discussing it is difficult because the reveals are the meat and potatoes here… and there isn’t just one. Like his previous work, M. Night doesn’t give the audience what they want, no matter how much they feel they’re owed; he gives them what they need. In addition to the cast returns already mentioned, both Anya Taylor-Joy and Charlayne Woodard reprise their roles of Casey Cooke from Split and Mrs. Price from Unbreakable. In an extra-meta moment, Shyamalan himself reprises his own cameo!

This is the unironically self-aware meta comic book film, one that dares feature scenes and reveals in an actual comic book store, an example of how extraordinary real-world heroes and villains could exist. It’s also a visual movie with a subtle yet intentional production design mirroring the characters within and even their influence, further proof that every aspect of the concept has been fully explored. None of this is a happy accident; it’s a confident creator’s act of will and a worthy conclusion.

Glass is rated PG-13 for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, language, and everyone underestimating the mastermind.

Four skull recommendation out of four

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