by Hans A. Carpenter
Release Date: January 18, 2019
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Bruce Willis, James McAvoy, and Samuel L. Jackson
Mister Marquee Says: Split, but Unbreakable
David Dunn (Bruce Willis) of Unbreakable uses his power of intuition to hunt down a serial killer with seemingly super human abilities known as The Horde (James McAvoy) from Split. The two are captured and put in a psychiatric facility with Elijah “Mr. Glass” Price (Samuel L. Jackson) where they are interviewed by a psychiatrist (Sarah Paulson) who specializes in people who believe they are super heroes.
Is there anyone in Hollywood more hit or miss than M Night Shyamalan? The guy has made an all-time classic in The Sixth Sense, a cult classic that in recent years gained more appreciation in Unbreakable, and hit a home run with Split. He also had one of the worst cold steaks in cinema history with Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth possibly among the worst movies ever made. His career is as split as James McAvoy’s Kevin Wendell Crumb.
Glass is a somewhat satisfying end to a rather remarkable trilogy. I say somewhat because bringing together two very well-liked and very different movies like Unbreakable and Split is a tough proposition with unrealistically high expectations. That said, I still left the theater feeling like a cohesive story was told across three movies.
There’s a consistent theme that runs through a lot of Shyamalan movies: works of fiction are more than just stories. In Unbreakable, Mr. Glass is convinced that superhero comics exist as exaggerations of real extraordinary people. The stories are loosely based on their feats and exaggerated over time.
Kevin’s doctor in Split believed that people with disorders can unlock abilities that others can’t. “The Beast”, the most dangerous of Kevin Wendell Crumb’s multiple personalities, dubs those who have suffered “the pure” who are closed to unlocking their true potential. These ideas are loosely tied together in Glass. Kevin was abused by his mother, exacerbating his DID (dissociative identity disorder) and giving birth to the superhuman entity known as “The Beast.” Mr. Glass has suffered his entire life thanks to a disease that gives him incredibly brittle bones that are prone to breaking.
David Dunn nearly drowned as a child, and as a result, his one real weakness is water. Shyamalan seemed to have some greater ideology cooking, but it didn’t quite take hold. Meanwhile, Dr. Staple (Sarah Paulson) interviews the men and attempts to convince them that what they think are superpowers are in fact just highly unlikely and impressive feats of strength. Shyamalan does a great job of keeping the abilities of The Beast and David Dunn grounded enough that they look superhuman, but if you squint hard enough, they look like something an exceptional regular person could accomplish in the right circumstances. That ambiguity is a real strength of the middle portion of the film.
James McAvoy again steals the show, especially in the scene where a strobe light forces him to rapidly shift personas, each one with a distinctive voice, posture, and physical quirks. Split was excellent based almost entirely on how entrancing McAvoy was playing 24 characters in one body. Some will find the later portion of the film a bit twisty, and anything even vaguely resembling a twist will be derided in this movie more than any other fairly or unfairly based on Shyamalan’s addiction to twists through most of his career. Ultimately, Glass ends the trilogy on a reasonably bittersweet note and caps off a wildly entertaining series of films.