The essence of the texture of something like “Glass” is taking something that can be so mythic and break it down to its most essential. For the most part of the film, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan captures much of what he found in “Unbreakable”. While not as revelatory as that film and on a significantly lower budget, “Glass” accomplishes much of what it sets out to do. Anchored by a brilliant James McAvoy who more than keeps balance with his older and more seasoned co-stars in Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, the film paces itself well without losing the pathos of the characters. But what seems as a construct (or even more just as an exercise in narrative) can be more seen as a parable of hiding in plain sight of what the general populace can be allowed or trusted to understand.
“Glass” takes place in a much different time than “Unbreakable” but the characters, like many people, are the same. Elijah (aka Mr. Glass) is fascinated by superheroes but knows what role he plays. The Beast that lives within Kevin, McAvoy’s character, is there to protect him, no matter what the damage. And David Dunn is trying to protect the rest of all is us around him. Shyamalan’s direction is the best he has been in years simply because he knows exactly how to pitch these characters but also how to build that story at its bones. If one simply reflects back on the basis of his story which Shyamalan does here, he likely realizes that the simplest progression and thereby resolution can be the truth that sets the characters free. The McGuffin itself, in true Shyamalan fashion, which won’t be revealed here is a little flimsily constructed and needed a bit more exposition but its impact and Night’s ability to push it in this direction under a very restricted budget seems to have reignited what he is capable of (as “Split” obviously showed). Jason Blum, who also produced this film, needs to be given credit as well as he is known for low budget films but also known for making filmmakers think creatively by limiting them. Leigh Whammel said similar when he showed “Upgrade” at SxSW in 2018.
A greater feat was getting Disney to allow Shyamalan to use footage from “Unbreakable” which Night seems to have brokered himself in terms of reaching out. The importance of this undeniably works because there is congruence allowing motion of time and pertinence between 2000 (when “Unbreakable” was made) and 2019. It is no small deal and allows for a sense of connection and depth which might not otherwise be possible (especially since secondary characters from the other two films in the trilogy do play a part). All this said, while not an event film by any means, “Glass” is both forceful and confident without being too egotistical. Many film students can look at this transmutation of a filmmaker and see an interesting path and how inevitably it affects specific decisions both for the better but also at times, against expectation.
In an age of superheroes that, at worst, are simply CG enhanced constructs overarching with myth or, at the best, grand textures of the essence of humanity (yet costing hundreds of millions of dollars to make), it is interesting to see the sequel to a film that started the high concept notion of a superhero do so without the extensive or blown up budgets to accomplish the basic premise. Interesting enough before Night, to give him credit, the one constant is the one and only: Samuel L. Jackson who has found a way to exist in both these kinds worlds from the beginning chords to the present day. The accomplishment of “Glass” is knowing its own true identity which, if one sees the characters as they truly are, is all they could be and more, with an intended impact and meaning.
By Tim Wassberg