M. Night Shyamalan is an ambitious filmmaker. His ambition lies in ideas and not set pieces. To create a Trilogy over 19 years and sustain the idea throughout, is an incredible achievement in itself. Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016) were shown to be connected only in the last minute of Split. These two films, stand-alone for most part, are meaty films on their own with a sense of control over the story and the telling of it.
Glass 2019 definitely serves the idea that was sowed in the first film but it does not quite have the same grip over laying out this story for the audience in the form of a film. A fascinated Shyamalan does not quite work towards solidifying the buildup to the big reveal, which gives an impression that he settled for awkwardly put together inconsequential scenes to fill-up the first hour of the film, so that he can reach the end that he is, clearly, fascinated by. Some of these scenes do have consequences which are revealed at the end but by then, the haphazard script sucks out the punch you usually get from a Shyamalan twist. The first few minutes of the film is more a set-up and fails to give the audience anything fresh. The set-up lacks to hold the viewers attention as there is nothing at stake, for Shyamalan to create tension or even ask for emotional investment from the audience. Almost halfway into the film, we get a clear picture of what the film is trying to do but its more a relief of figuring out than being surprised by it.
I have been fascinated by Shyamalan’s style of shooting a scene, using his camera to create interest even in a generic conversation scene. Glass does not offer anything remotely interesting in its visual style, when compared to his better works. Its a Meta film that is a little too indulgent to even engage the audience. Certain characters do things that don’t seem convincing, because the film does not care to inform us about the character’s progression, especially this is true for David’s son, who plays a crucial role in the climax, but the reveal comes across as contrived. Glass suffers from several contrivences. There is lack of clarity in terms of the story. The character played by Sarah Paulson is the best example of the lack of clarity. The design of her character confuses, twist with misinformation. A twist cannot be had at the expense of depriving the audience some information without giving us a character that is properly fleshed out.
Now that we know it was a trilogy, Unbreakable seems to be the most sure-footed film of the three. Unbreakable had maintained a clarity on the philosophy of the film, hence it is unfortunate that the character of that film (Bruce Willis’ David Dunn), hardly gets to do anything in Glass. James McAvoy, reprising his mind-blowing character Kevin, delivers a performance that doesn’t miss a beat and is, incredibly, in the same frequency as it was three years ago. His act as the 9 year old, Hedwig is delightful. Samuel L Jackson as Mr. Glass perfectly plays a ‘ broken ‘ man who is hell-bent on making his point. Samuel L Jackson is given a scene or two to dig deep into the sinister desperation of Mr. Glass, to prove to the world and he does.
When you go in to watch an M Night Shyamalan film, what you are expecting is not perfection but a sense of cinematic perverseness. Glass does not quite deliver that final punch and remains the weakest of the three films but not for the lack of trying. If you are a fan, chances are, you will find things to devour. The comic-book themes recur here but most times, in scenes that are either unintentionally funny or in contrived twists. Its shortcomings withstanding, the Writer-Director has made a film that has a deeply philosphical undertone about Superheroes and comic books.For a cinephile inundated with Superhero movies and franchises, M. Night Shyamalan’s final film in the unforseen trilogy, Glass, comes as a welcome change but it surely outstays its welcome, once the viewer is exhausted by Shyamalan’s indulgence.