Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review: "Glass"

I don’t think when “Unbreakable” came out 19 years ago anyone believed it would become a trilogy. I don’t think even M. Night Shyamalan thought of that notion when he first came up with the idea for “Split” from 2016.

(He claims otherwise, but creative types love to tell you they had a plan all along.)

But now it’s all come together, strangely but rather satisfyingly, in “Glass,” which wears the clothes of a supernatural action/thriller but is really more of an exploration of the modern superhero myth.

You may remember that in “Split,” James McAvoy played Kevin, a man with dozens of personalities, some of them friendly, many of them not. They were dominated by the Beast, a mad, feral manimal who exhibited extraordinary abilities -- including bending steel bars, climbing walls and surviving shotgun blasts.

In “Unbreakable,” it was Bruce Willis’ modest security guard, David Dunn, who discovered that he had similar abilities after surviving unscathed from a horrible train wreck the killed everyone else aboard. This also contained the revelation that (sorry, no spoiler warnings after nearly two decades) Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price, a genius comic book dealer burdened by a fragile skeleton, had rigged the train wreck to prove that superheroes really do exist.

Flash forward to present day, and Dunn is still secretly chasing bad guys with the help of his admiring son (Spencer Treat Clark), running a family security business by day. Lately they’ve been chasing Horde, a mysterious criminal who kidnaps and brutally slays teenage girls. You might have guessed this is the handiwork of the Beast.

Events transpire to bring all three men together in Raven Hill, a hospital for the mentally ill. Elijah, who dubs himself Mr. Glass, has been incarcerated there all along, kept heavily sedated most of the time.

You may think it odd that the person whose name is the film’s title spends the first half speechless and motionless, vegging out in his wheelchair while sadistic orderlies taunt and tease him. Jackson’s name even appears last in the credits.

Running this little cuckoo’s nest is Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychiatrist who specializes in treating the delusion of people who think they’re superheroes. She undercuts the mythology of comic books and works to convince the trio that their supposed abilities are imaginings spurred by past trauma: David’s childhood near-drowning; Kevin’s abuse at the hands of his mother; Elijah’s brilliant mind being trapped in such a breakable body.

For a time, they start to believe her. The Beast goes into remission and David starts to question his past experiences. Elijah still just stares woodenly at the floor.

Of course, we don’t believe any of this. Eventually the men are going to get the chance to prove they’re the real deal… right?

McAvoy has the flashiest part, flexing and growling like a demon is trying to pop out of his skin. I kept worrying he was going to give himself an aneurism. His fight scenes with Willis are curiously restrained; the older man seems more perturbed than frightened.

Anya Taylor-Joy is brought back from “Split,” though this movie doesn’t really know what to do with her. Charlayne Woodard plays Elijah’s mother, horrified at his deeds while unable to hide her pride at such an extraordinary child.

The first two films featured twist endings and “Glass” is no exception. I doubt even if you’re looking forward you’ll guess what it is. I can’t say I found it the most plausible thing in the world. But then this is movie that posits that ordinary-looking people can flip cars over.

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