I sometimes like the audience as Alice In Wonderland when I sit down before an M. Night Shyamalan film. “Tumbling through the looking glass” bares special credence when watching Shyamalan’s new film, Glass. His follow up to his brilliantly written and directed 2000 film, Unbreakable, and his most recent film, Split. With Glass, like Unbreakable and Split, Shyamalan continues to build a world that’s a hell of a lot more interesting than anything Marvel and DC have ever set out to create.
With Glass, like the Shyamalan’s films before it, works so well is his unique skills for creating just as unique characters and stories. With Unbreakable, Shyamalan creates a story about an average man whose own modest views of himself mask his true potential. Split followed the power of a monster that was created through massive trauma.
With Glass, Shyamalan continues building on this world and the ideas of identity by asking his audience are we a superhero if we think we are, even if it’s just a fantasy.
Glass is almost entirely from the point of view of American Horror Story player, Sarah Paulson’s character, Dr. Ellie Staple. A clinical psychologist who helps the police capture Bruce Willis’s vigilante, David Dunn, and James McAvoy’s Beast to help prove her research into people that believe that they’re superheroes. Shyamalan has smartly grounded his comic book film in reality so well that it transcends comic book films into character drama despite these characters being able to lift cars. Shyamalan has made a career at blending visual effects with his frames and you will be hard pressed to notice the effects in this film.
His continued partnership with It Follows directly of photography, Mike Gioulakis, from Split creates a unique look to his worlds with a muted colour palette and favoring unique camera movements driven by the character in the location that actually succeeds in giving the film a lot of its truly unnerving moments.
Shyamalan has proven time and time again that it’s not about the genre, it’s about the character. And despite this film being a drama it more than deliveries on the action when these characters throw down. Shyamalan keeps his characters front and center with tight frames and quick cuts that emphasize the brutality of this fight and rivalry between Dunn and The Beast. And despite being 63, Bruce Willis proves he’s more than capable of throwing down with a jacked up, twenty years younger, James McAvoy.
If it’s the character that makes the story, it’s the actor that makes the character. And Shyamalan’s cast performs a true masterclass of acting. Bruce Willis’s ability to carry a weighted inflection to his dialogue comes full force and you’re with it the whole time to the point you will cheer when he’s allowed to break out the cheesy comic line. You can believe Paulson is a psychologist with how firmly she believes her theories.
There are fewer enjoyable things to watch than Sam Jackson screwing with people. The true fun in this story comes from Mr. Glass as Jackson seemingly channels Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor to pushes his characters like chess pieces around the board.
James McAvoy performs an unbelievable masterclass as he flawless performs 20 different characters, often times in one scene. Different nuances, speech patterns, accents, genders, that are so good you will honestly not believe he’s Scottish. In the press for the film, Jackson has stated acting against 4 different characters in one scene, all played by McAvoy, brought out the best in him.
Glass is worth 4 out of 5 stars because the film works brilliantly as a character drama about comic books. What Shyamalan has made is something as unique as his storytelling. A truly original film in both a character drama and comic book film. And every bit as entertaining as Captain America punching an eight-foot-tall robot.