BEIRUT: If there is one director who has had a rough time in Hollywood and holding on to his fanbase, M. Night Shyamalan would have to be that director – I daresay he is more divisive than The Last Jedi’s Rian Johnson.
Shyamalan caught a glimpse of hope in 2016 with the release of SPLIT, that delved into the mysterious recesses of Kevin Wendell Crumb's fractured, gifted mind, which teased the audience with a massive reveal promising the convergence of Shyamalan’s characters in a shared universe.
The final scene of Split takes place in a Philadelphia diner, where patrons can be seen watching a news report that one of the kidnapped girls has survived but that Crumb is still at large. As the news report continues, we see a man at the counter in profile, and as he turns, we realize that it is Bruce Willis’s David Dunn.
Longtime Shyamalan fans lost their minds, speculating on what the scene might mean – and now the answer is here – but is it the answer fans wanted?
GLASS delves into the root of identity itself: whether we are objectively who we are or whether our minds can shape and ultimately determine our physical realities. If you believe you’re a superhero, are you one, even if your belief is a delusion?
As a premise, GLASS asked the right philosophical questions but the answers it gave were not earned.
At the beginning of the film, we discover that in the 16 years since UNBREAKABLE, David Dunn has become a legitimate vigilante hero, known as The Overseer, protecting the citizens of Philadelphia full time with the help of his now-adult son, Joseph.
But Dunn is a controversial figure and is wanted by police. His success depends on maintaining his anonymity and staying one step ahead of the law. Crumb’s sinister personalities, The Horde, meanwhile, have kidnapped four more teenage girls to feed to The Beast. Police have been unable to find them. Dunn needs to find Crumb, and fast.
When they do cross paths, it results in both Dunn and Crumb being captured and detained at Raven Hill Memorial Psychiatric Research Hospital under the forced care of Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who specializes in a specific type of delusion of grandeur: people who believe they are comic-book characters.
Up till this point in the film, every element (the color palette, cinematography, sound design and screenplay) worked and fit into the greater puzzle of Shyamalan’s world.
When looking at the visual cues, GLASS utilizes three colors to unite the worlds of its characters.
Green, purple and yellow extended into the looks of each man’s family member or surrogate family member. This created a visual connection between David Dunn and his son, between Price and his mother, and between Crumb and Casey Cooke.
The brilliance of it was that it was done in a way that felt organic and subtle.
In fact, the first and second act, are quite on point, engaging, and involving – all building towards what seemed to be climactic finale with a punch of an ending… an ending worthy of the classic Shyamalan name.
But when the page is turned, and the finale begins, the finale is far from climactic.
Shyamalan goes for the political statement, rather than the authenticity of the world he has built, the twist instead of the narrative, and as a result ends up with the expected rather than unexpected.
This is rather unfortunate due to the fact that a film’s most crucial moments fall onto the final act – this is what stays with the audience as it leaves the movie theater.
GLASS’s minor positives are all due to James McAvoy’s energetically powerful performance.
His range, nuance and subtlety, are all evident through his control: from the monster that is The Beast, and the domineering personalities such as Dennis and Patricia that make up The Horde, all layering the subsumed character of Crumb himself.
Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson both do a decent yet unmemorable job, and Sarah Paulson does not work her magic as she usually does.
In a cinematic time that is so reliant on franchises and expanded universes, GLASS is a clear lesson that not all films are meant to be shared, and some stories are meant to be stand alone.
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