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Glass (2019) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & content that may disturb
Cast:
James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Horde
Bruce Willis as David Dunn/The Overseer
Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price/Mr. Glass
Sarah Paulson as Dr. Ellie Staple
Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke
Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph Dunn
Charlayne Woodard as Mrs. Price
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

From Unbreakable, Bruce Willis returns as David Dunn as does Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price, known also by his pseudonym Mr. Glass. Joining from Split are James McAvoy, reprising his role as Kevin Wendell Crumb and the multiple identities who reside within, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, the only captive to survive an encounter with The Beast. Following the conclusion of Split, Glass finds Dunn pursuing Crumb’s superhuman figure of The Beast in a series of escalating encounters, while the shadowy presence of Price emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.

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Glass was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. While M. Night Shyamalan has the reputation of being a polarising and hit or miss director, his work on Split was great and one of the most stand out aspects about it was the twist at the very end which indicated that the movie was set in the same universe as Unbreakable. Unbreakable is often hailed as one of Shyamalan’s best films, and seeing him expand on that universe was exciting. Naturally the third and final film of this trilogy had a lot of anticipation behind it, and upon its release, it has been receiving very divided reactions. Having seen it myself though, I’m on the side that loves it, and it just gets better the more I think about it.

While I guess you could watch Glass without watching the other movies, you’ll really only get the full experience if you watch both Unbreakable and Split. If you’re not that interested in these movies, I don’t think you’ll be as invested in Glass as others. Something that should be noted is that this is not a superhero movie. While Unbreakable is sort of a superhero origin story and Split is sort of a supervillain origin story, this trilogy is meant to be a take on superheroes, not necessarily meant to be superhero movies. Because of that, it tends to subvert and play around with a lot of superhero movie tropes, and I really liked that. Glass’s genre and tone is a mix of Unbreakable and Split, but it leans more towards the Unbreakable side. There are a few thrilling scenes but most of the movie is slow paced and smaller scale like Unbreakable, and I loved Unbreakable. There is a lot of dialogue in the movie and going into it knowing that, I really thought it was good and I was invested in the conversations. The movie also doesn’t get as big as some may think. The trailers do oversell the scale of the movie, it really is a small scale and enclosed movie, and I’m glad that it doesn’t get absurdly over the top. There will be some things in the third act that are going to divide some people, I personally really liked where he took it, even if I really wasn’t expecting that at all. It is clear whatever the case however that the direction that Shyamalan took the plot was his plan, it’s not a studio mandated decision or anything, this is what he wanted to do with the story. As for the writing itself I really liked it. It does have the typical writing of Shyamalan, both the good and bad. By the bad I mean that there’s some occasional lines of dialogue which don’t sound human at all, but I’ve become used to seeing that from Shyamalan. In terms of problems I had, the first thing that came to mind was that the second act at times could drag. I wasn’t necessarily bored and I was invested throughout, but I did feel it slow down a little too much. With that said, Unbreakable had more pacing problems than Glass. I feel like I’ll need to watch Glass again to be sure how I feel about it, however my instant reaction after watching it was loving it.

Much of the returning cast from Unbreakable and Split are back and they all do great jobs. Bruce Willis reprises his role as David Dunn from Unbreakable but he wasn’t as prominent as I thought he would be. He was sort of in the forefront earlier on and then gets less screen time over time. With that said it worked for the movie, he was still present in the plot and it was nice to see him again. It’s also the best performance that Willis has given since Looper, he really does seem committed to the role. Also returning is Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price/Mr Glass. It was surprising that despite his name being the title of the movie, for a while he doesn’t do much. Even when he showed up in the first half, he was just there, not even saying a single word. It’s really the second half where he is more in the forefront and Jackson absolutely kills it. It’s been 19 years since we’ve seen him in this role and he is back with the same level of dedication and still feels very much like the same character, albeit more certain in his beliefs about superheroes. James McAvoy as Kevin Wendall Crumb/The Horde however was the standout of the entire movie, no surprise really. While David Dunn is in the forefront in the first half while Elijah Price is in the background, as well as vice versa for the second half, Crumb and his other personalities were consistently present throughout. McAvoy was fantastic in Split but he’s even better here. While his character’s split personality wasn’t necessarily a gimmick in that movie, it was quite reliant on it. In Glass it feels like his characters are even more fleshed out and McAvoy just transforms into each of them with ease (sometimes jumping between them in the same shot), convincingly making them feel like distinctly different people. While the personalities we see most are Hedwig, Patricia, Dennis and The Beast, we do see appearances from the personalities in Split, as well as a bunch more new personalities. I’m not sure how you’ll feel about the overall movie but I’m pretty sure that everyone will be able to say that James McAvoy did a phenomenal job, because he really did. An addition to the movie is Sarah Paulson in the role of a psychiatrist trying to convince the main 3 characters that they aren’t superheroes. Paulson is a very talented actress but was often underutilised in some movies, often in minor supporting roles. In Glass she is in a supporting role but she really shines in her role and has a lot to work with. Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark and Charlayne Woodard return as their characters, with Anya as Casey Cooke (the surviving kidnapped girl from Split), Spencer as David’s son, and Charlayne as Elijah’s mother. They aren’t in the forefront and maybe weren’t super essential to be in the movie but they fit well in the story and played their parts well.

I’d go so far as to say that this might be the best directed film by M. Night Shyamalan, he does some great things here. The cinematography is immaculate and the visuals are great, particularly the use of colour. This is not an action movie but there are a few action scenes. It’s nothing great but it was more than I was expecting from the movie, and worked quite well. The music by West Dylan Thordson (who made the score for Split) was great. There are also callbacks to themes from Unbreakable and Split and they are very effective.

Glass isn’t going to work for everyone, as evidence from the very polarising reaction from both critics and audiences. If you’re not invested in the Unbreakable/Split stories in the slightest, there’s probably not going to be much point watching Glass. However I personally loved what M. Night Shyamalan did with this film. His direction of the movie is his best work yet, the performances are great (particularly James McAvoy) and as unexpected as it was, I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to what Shyamalan started with Unbreakable. I think I will need to rewatch it at some point as there was a lot to take in, and my opinion on it could change. However the more I think about it, the more I loved it.

Unbreakable (2000) Review

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains medium level violence.
Cast:
Bruce Willis as David Dunn
Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price/Mr. Glass
Robin Wright as Audrey Dunn
Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph Dunn
Charlayne Woodard as Mrs. Price
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

A security guard (Bruce Willis), having been the sole survivor of a high-fatality train crash, finds himself at the centre of a mysterious theory that explains his consistent physical good fortune. When news of his survival is made public, a man whose own body is excessively weak (Samuel L. Jackson) tracks him down in an attempt to explain his unique unbreakable nature.

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I only watched Unbreakable once but with director M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film Glass coming out soon, a movie tying together this movie and his other movie Split in the same universe, I decided to check out Unbreakable again. At the time of its release, Unbreakable was considered to be a disappointment compared to director Shyamalan’s previous film, The Sixth Sense (which got him noticed as a director). Nowadays its considered one of his all time best movies and maybe even his best, and for very good reason.

Unbreakable was really ahead of its time, especially when you consider the state of superhero movies in the lead up to its release. While the Christopher Reeve Superman movies and the Michael Keaton Batman movies existed, the rest of the comic book movies leading up to 2000 were films like Batman and Robin and Spawn. This is a more realistic take about comic book superheroes. Had this been released around 2005-2008, this would’ve been acclaimed as a masterpiece and a different take on superheroes. However, it was released at a time when comic book movies were still finding its way, so people really didn’t understand or catch onto this movie as fast. M. Night Shyamalan plays with comic books, it’s clear even from this that he has a deep knowledge about comic books and applies some of the tropes and aspects into the lore in this movie. Despite some of the larger than life concepts, it understands that it’s a smaller movie, based in reality. It’s essentially a story about Superman realising that he’s a superhero but they make it as grounded as possible. There is also a twist at the end, as typical of Shyamalan, and it really works (won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen Unbreakable yet). In terms of problems with the movie, I guess there are moments that are a little drawn out and lost my interest a little bit, mainly some conversations, but there’s only a few of those moments.

Bruce Willis’s performance here as the lead character of David Dunn is one of his best, if not his best. It’s a very subdued performance, it’s not showy at all but you can clearly see his emotions come across and he’s very convincing in his arc. Samuel L. Jackson also gives one of his best performances as Elijah Price, someone who is determined to prove that David is a superhero of sorts. Jackson is very subdued here compared to his other characters and he’s actually quite convincing in the role. Despite some of the outlandish things that his character claims, the way Jackson delivers them actually seems believable. The supporting actors were also good, with Robin Wright and Spencer Treat Clark as David Dunn’s mother and son serving the story quite well.

M. Night Shyamalan knows what he’s doing behind the camera here. The cinematography was great, on a rewatch I really noticed that he used a lot of long takes with small movements or zooms, especially during conversations. I’m not sure why he did that but it just felt right. Shyamalan once again seems very familiar with comic books and it’s very apparent in his direction. Whether that be the clear use of colour like green for David Dunn and purple with Elijah Price, the way some things are framed to seem like something straight out of a comic book, or other things along that line. James Newton Howard’s iconic score here is absolutely incredible and added so much to the movie. As fantastic as Unbreakable is, I’m not even sure that it would’ve reached this level of greatness without it, that’s how much it elevated the movie.

Unbreakable for me is without a doubt Shyamalan’s best movie yet, his writing and direction on top of the great performances (especially form Willis and Jackson) were outstanding and really works. With the boom of comic book movies nowadays ever since really 2008, Unbreakable has aged incredibly well. Early buzz surrounding Glass has been divisive but I’m on board with whatever Shyamalan has in mind for the conclusion of this story.