A grand end to the Eastrail 177 trilogy.M. Night Shyamalan has had the most interesting career. From such original masterpieces as The Sixth Sense to cringe-worthy adaptations such as The Last Airbender, this man’s career has truly been a rollercoaster. His most notable film, however, would have to be his second hit, Unbreakable. In this film, security guard David Dunn survives a train accident without a scratch on him, which catches the attention of Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price, who is obsessed with comic books and whose bones break easily. Elijah determines that David is secretly a superhuman, while David discovers the evil deeds of Elijah and has him locked up. Making a film like this was a bold move for Shyamalan, especially since this was at a time when comic book films were not as respected as they are today and the film has held up rather nicely.
Two years ago, after winning back his audiences with The Visit, Shyamalan cemented his comeback with Split. In this, film, James McAvoy plays Kevin Wendall Crumb, a man who suffers from DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), who is holding three girls captive while preparing for the unveiling of his latest identity, “The Beast.” While Split managed to work as a self-contained thriller, most audiences were shocked when it was revealed to be a part of the Unbreakable universe, and the mid-credits scene confirmed that an official sequel to both Unbreakable and Split was on the way!
A year after the events of Split, Unbreakable’s David Dunn has embraced his superhuman persona, “The Overseer,” and patrols the streets of Philadelphia, attempting to hunt down Split’s Kevin, aka The Beast, who continues to kidnap girls and hold them hostage to his multiple identities. When David and Kevin finally cross paths and brawl, they are caught and captured by armed forces, led by psychologist Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). Looking to analyze their behavior, she has them both locked up in a mental institution, which happens to be where Unbreakable’s Elijah Price, aka Mr. Glass, is being held. Elijah holds secrets that are critical to both David and Kevin, but the longer the three are kept inside and examined, the more it seems that there are plenty more secrets being held from the audience that are just waiting to be uncovered.
Even though I was secretly excited for this movie because of my personal admiration for both Unbreakable and Split, I lowered my expectations walking in. Shyamalan, as unique a storyteller as he is, has never been the best when it comes to writing natural dialogue, and it usually spoils the atmosphere he crafts from his directing. One of Glass’s surprises, however is that Shyamalan plays his weaknesses to his advantage. There is a sequence when one security guard gets caught up in conversation with another, and most of the conversation regards a multivitamin. This would usually be distracting and awkward, but the way it is edited generates some genuine laughs. It is here when I realized, Shyamalan has learned from his past mistakes and has gone back to making expertly crafted films again.
The story of Glass has incredible flow, and each moment feels critical. The film gives the audience just enough material required to know each character and their place in the story, while leaving plenty of room for suspense and mystery. The mystery is also kept well-hidden by a cast clearly on their A game. Bruce Willis returns in what is essentially his most acclaimed role since John McClane, and is as great as ever. James McAvoy is continuing to have a blast with such a complicated, yet entertaining role. Samuel L. Jackson, as the titular Mr. Glass, has probably the most difficult role in this film, as the audience is not aware of what he has been up to in between films, and Jackson’s aura in this film makes it all the more tense and worrying. Not to mention that most of his dialogue is typical Shyamalan exposition, and no one delivers these kinds of lines better than Jackson. Supporting characters from previous films, like David’s son and Elijah’s mother from Unbreakable, as well as Casey from Split, appear in this film and play crucial parts to the story; their inclusion is more than welcome. Sadly, we aren’t blessed with Robin Wright returning as David’s wife, Audrey, but you can’t always get them all.
Despite the fact that most of the film is set in a mental institution, it is gorgeous to look at some scenes, such as when Dr. Staple is interviewing all three “superhumans,” takes place in a pink-colored room, almost paying tribute to Stanley Kubrick. Even the way that the scene is shot is interesting, as each character’s point of view is being filmed at a certain angle to match their personality. The fact that Glass looks this good is not surprising, as it was shot by Mike Gioulakis, who Shyamalan used on Split, and who also shot It Follows. The scenes of the hospital itself, taken from quite a distance, are appropriately ominous and lacking in clarity. I didn’t think it would be possible, but Shyamalan managed to successfully combine the visual styles of both the dark and moody color scheme of Unbreakable with the musty and gritty atmosphere of Split.
Shyamalan has also showed a significant amount of improvement in filming his action scenes. The action in the film is visceral, and one can feel the power of every punch or impact made by the characters. One impressive scene is where Shyamalan places the viewer inside a van while two characters fight outside. At one point, the characters hit the van and the van shakes with the camera still inside, and it feels visceral. That scene in the trailer where Kevin as the Beast lunges across a field of grass still looks amazing, and many of these scenes can make one wonder how many of these effects where created, because many of them look practical. Well, leave it up to Shyamalan to keep the audience guessing!
And, of course, it is not an M. Night Shyamalan film without a twist ending, and in this film, there are at least three of them. If you are familiar enough with the previous films, you might be able to put the pieces together on one of the lesser twists, but the other ones are relatively hard to predict. In any case, each of these twists works well with the story, and the smooth flow gives you little time to think about what might happen next. And though I cannot say how this film ends, I can safely say that the M. Night Shyamalan we all loved has officially returned, because Glass delivers the goods. It manages to combine both Unbreakable and Split seamlessly, while also managing to be a compelling psychological thriller. I am not sure what most people are expecting from this movie, but isn’t that the best part of the cinematic experience?