With all of the chaos surrounding us today, I wish more people would take a moment to stop, breathe, and reflect on the positives. Hopeful things— not the least of which being M. Night Shyamalan’s glorious comeback. Like the resurrection of an ancient saviour, Shyamalan’s comic-book-inspired mythos has risen out of the ashes of such cinematic dumpster fires as The Happening and Avatar: The Last Airbender to deliver us from the mind-numbing Hades of formulaic comic-book movies. We welcome back Bruce Willis as David Dunn, a.k.a. The Overseer, the reluctant and brooding hero. Returning, also, is the newest addition to the Shyamalan superworld: James McAvoy from Split as Kevin Wendell Crumb, a.k.a. The Horde. And of course, the film’s namesake, Mr. Glass—a.k.a. Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price.
Upon his return, Shyamalan impressively intuits the perfect combination of previously attempted directorial approaches. He doesn’t let go of the Spielberg-esque loftiness and audacity that ignited his career, but also indulges in the almost childlike implausibility of his high-concept premises with a judicious dose of unbridled, tongue-in-cheek schlock. Sure enough, he also slips in a much anticipated twist. And yet, even the trademark twist rings more of a metatextual revelation than an unexpected plot-turn. His work of late bears the mark of an older, more mature director who has determined where his talents lie, and how to deliver to the audience while also staying true to himself. Of course, there will be some who will hate the film because Shyamalan is the creator that everyone likes to dump on and feel superior to. They’re both too jaded to celebrate a career turnaround and too obtuse to parse out sincere drama from self-aware farce, two extremes which playfully intermingle throughout the film.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say Glass has no flaws. Some of the dialogue goes too far with histrionics or sentimentality, several themes and ideas are delivered ham-fistedly, and the plot holes certainly exceed a marginal status. To those discrediting the entire film for these reasons, I refer again to what I believe has redeemed the director. While, yes, the film had the potential to be smarter and more subtle, the story still lives up to the material which has been been established thus far. Partial credit is due to the ensemble, who elevate the script with a host of fine performances. McAvoy is the standout, switching between vastly different personas in the span of a single monologue. Willis finally has something more to do than play a grumpy old man. His quiet, sensitive, and dignified charisma that arose in his best work brilliantly reemerges, here. Returning as his son, Spencer Treat Clarke makes us wonder where he’s been. The authentic, natural quality of his performances in childhood have carried seamlessly into adulthood. And of course, Samuel L. Jackson revives one of his most popular characters, playing him much more dark and haunted than when we saw him last. He gets the majority of the best dialogue, as his mastermind character embodies verbosity and encyclopedic knowledge. Shyamalan also seems to have a knack for writing dialogue for Jackson, much like Quentin Tarantino seems predestined to write for Christoph Waltz.
Other film franchises with this big of shoes to fill often teeter with the weight and come crashing down. Luckily, Shyamalan has a singular vision and completes his covert trilogy in a way that satisfies but doesn’t placate. He makes the necessary moves (sometimes including sacrifices) to provide the saga with a worthy conclusion that successfully builds upon the world he has created, moves it forward, and opens a door of so many new possibilities. | Nic Champion