Slight of Hand: A Review of “Glass”

This movie will leave you feeling split.

Warning: Minor spoilers ahead

Glass is finally here. The highly anticipated sequel to Split (2016), which was a surprise sequel to Unbreakable (2000), is the third installment of M. Night Shyamalan’s Eastrail 117 trilogy. Bruce Willis (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable), Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Unbreakable), James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class, Split), Spencer Treat Clark (Unbreakable, The Last House on the Left), and Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split) return as characters from the first two films. Sarah Paulson (Bird Box, American Horror Story) joins the cast as Dr. Ellie Staple, a psychiatrist who specializes in “delusions of grandeur” that lead people to believe they are superheroes or supervillains.

 Willis is David Dunn, aka The Overseer, who has super strength, psychometric abilities (the ability to perceive information, visions, etc. about a person by touching them), and invulnerability. He uses his abilities to locate criminals and bring them to justice in his own vigilante sort of way–kind of like a poncho-clad Batman. Jackson is Elijah Glass, aka The Mastermind/Mr. Glass, who has osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease. Physically, he is very fragile, but he has genius-level intelligence, which allows him to play puppetmaster. He is a master of planning, deception, and misdirection, all of which he uses to develop and execute his plans. McAvoy is Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man who lives with dissociative identity disorder (DID). Crumb lives with 20 or more different identities that are known as the Horde. Whenever an alter is present, they are “holding the light.” The most dominant identities, or alters, are Barry (dominant in Split, but not so much in Glass), Patricia, Dennis, and Hedwig who are followers of super strong animalistic alter, the Beast. They believe that the Beast will cleanse the world of all of the “impure” people who have never suffered. Clark reprises his role in Unbreakable as Joseph Dunn, now an adult, who assists his dad with his security business and vigilante side hustle. Taylor-Joy returns as Casey Cooke, one of the girls who was kidnapped by Crumb in Split.

Glass Trio

Glass begins as a really solid film. Dunn has upgraded from being a security guard to owning his own security business. His son Joseph, now an adult (and still portrayed by Clark), works at the store and helps him with his missions to locate and take out criminals. Dunn randomly bumps into Crumb–Hedwig, the alter that is a 9-year-old boy, is holding the “light” at the time–on the street and senses that he is behind the kidnapping and mutilation of several missing teenage girls. Their first encounter results in an action-packed scene in the abandoned building where the most recent kidnapped girls are being held. Dunn frees them and goes head-to-head against the Beast. The police arrive, and Dunn and Crumb are brought to Ravenwood Memorial, a psychiatric hospital, where Glass is being held as well. Glass is drugged into a catatonic state and is not responsive to anyone.  They are confined to separate cells and are to be evaluated by Dr. Staple over a three-day period. Staple’s mission is to convince them that they are not three superhumans, but three normal humans who are under the delusion that they have superhuman abilities. She goes so far as enlisting the help of Joseph, Casey, and Mrs. Glass, Elijah Glass’ elderly mother. However, having seen what Dunn, Crumb, and Glass are capable of firsthand, they do nothing to help Staple’s cause.

Dunn does not succumb to Staple’s scrutiny. He has one moment of doubt, but it’s quickly resolved when he frees himself from his cell by busting through a steel door. Dunn went through his major arc in Unbreakable, so having one in this film isn’t really necessary. Crumb, however, suffers quite a bit of self-doubt but is eventually saved by Glass’ testimony that he is capable of greatness. Glass convinces Crumb to unleash the Beast in an epic showdown against the Overseer for all the world to see. However, he is working against Dr. Staple and a group of people who share her philosophies, so it seems as though he will lose. Shyamalan, infamous for his jarring plot twists and big reveals, manages to misdirect the audience once again.

The movie is titled after Mr. Glass, so it makes sense that he would have a large role in the film, but his role in the film goes deeper than what initially meets the eye; Glass is basically God. He has the cunning to trick the hospital staff into believing he has been “stripped of his powers” and has the foresight to stay several steps ahead of them. We know from Unbreakable that he single-handedly orchestrated the catalytic derailment of the train that created The Overseer. What we did not know was that he also played a huge role in the creation of the Horde/the Beast. His plan is to broadcast footage that shows the world what feats Dunn and Crumb are capable of, and he does so in a way that neither Dr. Staple nor the audience ever saw coming.

Mr Glass

The ending of the film was the biggest issue for me. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that it felt disrespectful towards Glass, Crumb, and Dunn as characters. All three are brought down by their greatest weakness, and it was done in a way that felt very cheap. Dr. Staple manipulates and exploits Casey, an underage girl who has experienced sexual abuse, to bring down the Beast. Casey’s interaction and intimacy with a shirtless Crumb at one point felt very inappropriate and honestly, disgusting. The ending of the film/broadcast of the footage also did not provide a lot of closure. It left things open in a way that suggests there could be another film or a TV series to follow, which is kind of disappointing in a sense. I would be interested in watching anything that takes place in this world, but the fact that the film’s ending strongly hints that there could be more to come is a huge departure from how the first two films of the trilogy ended and is kind of a let down.

Despite the third act of the film not being as strong as it could have been, Glass did manage to entertain and surprise me, which is more than I can say for some of Shyamalan’s weaker films (looking at you, The Happening). Shyamalan’s unique and dark world of superheroes and villains is a nice contribution to the genre and can definitely hold its own against the MCU and DC Extended Universe films dominating the industry (seriously, I’d rather re-watch this than re-watch Batman vs Superman any day). I’m hoping the questionable ending means that there is more to come from this world, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Grade: B+

Glass was released January 18th, 2019 and is currently playing in theaters.

Image via Alex Ross

Written by Alix Teague
(Alix is a fan of memes, puns, and unironically using words like “yeet.” She also has an MA in literature, so she’s clearly putting it to good use. She likes to refer to herself as the Millennial Bard. Follow me on anything at @alixplainlater )

 

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