M. Night Shyamalan has had one of the most prolific careers in twenty-first century Hollywood. Beginning with his unanimous praise after The Sixth Sense, and moving into the lukewarm (at the time) reception of Unbreakable, Signs, and, to a lesser extent, The Village. Ever since then, the lead up to any new M. Night movie was the same. General audiences might go see it because every trailer says “From the director of The Sixth Sense”, film-savvy people won’t bother because it’s M. Night and it can’t be good, and his fans all have a cycle of skepticism that leads to them going to see the movie anyway, for better or worse. The only real exception to this is The Last Airbender, which no one cared about and no one liked, but we’ll stay away from that.
I noticed that Unbreakable had grown a small cult following over the past few years, then Split came out and all of Shyamalan’s biggest fans knew that he was back and better than ever, and he couldn’t fail them again, right? Good news, he didn’t. Glass is a polarizing and risky film, and I can understand anyone not liking it. It definitely takes a different direction from the previous two films, placing the three central characters all in one location within the first act. The movie is slow moving from then on but never ceases to be interesting. Catching up with David Dunne, Joseph, and Elijah Price is supremely impressive, and Sarah Paulson never allows herself to go overlooked despite having to verbally face off against all three of them in one long scene that I loved. That’s the first great thing about this movie, all of the loose threads in Unbreakable are resolved in the best ways possible, even M. Night’s cameo, which is the best in any of his films (Signs not included).
Glass takes risks almost every scene. The camera techniques, the cinematography, the direction of the characters, the ending, all of these things are played in an unconventional way, and admittedly, not all of it works. I can see how fans of Shyamalan looking for the Unbreakable sequel would be upset, as David Dunne has about equal screen time with the other main characters. While the story is subversive, exciting, and compelling, there’s one recurring camera technique that was very jarring to me involving mounting the camera to an actor while something was happening that required a lot of movement. The isolated setting is a risk for people who expected a big fight between David and The Beast. I won’t get into any story spoilers, but the ending is insanely risky, and a lot of people online are complaining about the way the film wraps up, but I don’t agree. Any time Glass took a turn, I was here for it, and it always managed to surprise me.
The performances here are also excellent across the board. Bruce Willis continues a subdued, everyday man performance that made me fall in love with David Dunne in Unbreakable. James McAvoy is doing the exact opposite; he imbues multiple personalities with so much distinction you can always tell which one you’re watching. Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price is domineering and cunning despite spending all of the runtime in a wheelchair.
While I love Glass, and I’ll continue to praise it—it’ll probably make my best of the year list—I can see why people don’t like it. The story is not your typical superhero story, but neither are Unbreakable and Split. The ending was incredibly bittersweet to me. It doesn’t meet expectations for the end of a trilogy. That’s probably the best way to describe Glass (without spoilers); it’s not the standard way to make a movie. That’s what made me love it.