Anyone who has seen one of M. Night Shyamalan’s films knows to expect big twists that seemingly come out of thin air. However, no one expected his 2016 horror epic Split to be the sequel to his 2000 fan-favorite drama Unbreakable and part of a larger, secret trilogy of films that ultimately comes to a head in Glass. Shyamalan’s latest outing brings his shared superhero universe together for a truly great conclusion to the story he started telling nineteen years ago. While some of the twists are predictable, Glass manages to be a suspenseful psychological thriller for both the characters and the audience.
Glass revolves around the six returning main characters from the other two films and one new character, who stirs up trouble for the group. It is important to note that Glass takes place three weeks after the events of Split. The film starts with David Dunn/The Overseer (Bruce Willis) attempting to track down Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Beast (James McAvoy), who has taken another set of teenage girls hostage. David and Kevin wind up joining David’s nemesis, Elijah Price/Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), in a mental institution under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Ellie Staple (new cast member Sarah Paulson), who believes that the three superpowered individuals are suffering from delusions that make them think they are more than human.
Staple’s tactics don’t fare well with each character’s sidekick. Joseph Dunn (Spencer Treat Clark), Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), and Mrs. Price (Charlayne Woodard) show up to the facility to voice their displeasure with the superhumans’ situation. It is particularly great that all three of these actors returned for Glass, as having the original actors from Unbreakable adds a layer of authenticity to the new story. Granted, the sidekicks play a lesser role this time around, which is a bit of a letdown. Staple, in a way, becomes the needle that threads the narrative together, as the other six characters and the audience go through the same journey of discussing what it means to be more than human. The film tends to contradict itself by making valid points for the existence of superheroes and heightened abilities being a self-made delusion to protect the mind from a tragic past.
Shyamalan’s script is full of suspense, allowing the slower parts of the film to remaining interesting. The best part about Glass is its ability to make you think and second guess what you know about this shared universe. Just like all his other films, Shyamalan includes several twists that aren’t revealed until the proper moment. Some of the twists are predictable, while some are surprising. I really enjoyed the ending of the film because it both sets the stage for a potential sequel/continuation of the shared universe and allows the audience to decide for themselves what happens next. It’s the perfect open ending.
One of the best aspects of the film is the symbolism and use of color. It was very apparent that color played a big role in Unbreakable, yet the use of color in Split was a bit more subtle and winds up making more sense as you watch Glass. Color is easily the most important part of the film because it tells you exactly what you need to know. You should quickly notice that David and Joseph, Kevin and Casey, and Elijah and Mrs. Price all wear matching color schemes that represent their identities. Without giving too much away, the usage of color is absolutely brilliant to the point that color acts as another character in the story. One great example of color symbolism is Casey’s yellow and purple checkered sweater that she wears when the Beast and Mr. Glass are teamed up.
Glass wouldn’t be great without McAvoy’s brilliant acting. McAvoy’s Kevin suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID) and has twenty four different alters that range from perpetually nine-year-old Hedwig to proper British lady Patricia. McAvoy portrays all twenty four characters to perfection and is absolutely wonderful to watch. He is immensely talented, which is evident in the scenes where he changes alters several times in one take without the camera ever panning away. I wish McAvoy would get more praise for the work he has done in both Split and Glass because he is great. Paulson is also excellent in her role and is perfectly cast. She has more screen time than anticipated, which is a happy surprise.
If you have seen Glass and find yourself wondering why the titular character isn’t the lead, then you probably haven’t fully grasped the meaning of each character. Mr. Glass plays the same role in both Unbreakable and Glass: he remains a formidable foe who plays his role from the shadows. In fact, Glass sort of plays out like a long magic trick in that the closer you look, the less you will actually see. It’s a genius way to structure a film. Shyamalan has made yet another intriguing and entertaining film.
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