Too Much Sacrificed for Big Twist
M. Night Shyamalan is responsible for one of the most brilliant supernatural thrillers, and one of the most impressive cinematic twists in film history: The Sixth Sense. That film established him as a wunderkind filmmaker and immediately placed his future work under the scrutiny of hope and high expectation. His following films saw the writer/director chase that ‘plot twist dragon’ with fervor and varying degrees of success or abject failure. I’ve always rooted for him, finding some of his offerings to be enjoyable, decently made films, but even I have a hard time finding something positive in the likes of The Last Airbender or The Village -- and don’t even get me started on The Happening.
The Sixth Sense’s success led to a movie called Unbreakable, which I adored. Most of the world did not at the time, and it tanked at the box office. Years later, after the aforementioned cinema blight that became his staple, Shyamalan took a different tact, challenging himself with lower budgets and delivering the excellent The Visit.
His next film was a tensioned filled tour de force called Split, which, unless you’ve been under a rock, you now know shares the same universe as Unbreakable. This excellent thriller, with a compelling young heroine and complex villain (played excellently by James McAvoy) had a nice little tidbit slapped on its end, when in a café, David Dunne -- Bruce Willis’s Unbreakable hero -- makes a quick appearance. This obviously spoke to a grander plan in the director’s intentions. Being that he was two for two with his latest output; it was an enticing hook to dangle.
My frustration is his seemingly constant pandering to this expectation that he’ll outdo himself and deliver a twist ending that puts him back where he was in 1999. But I had faith that he might have finally gotten this penchant out of his system, as Split was a tension-filled thriller with great characterizations and a swift and compelling plot. I was looking forward to Glass to see how he would tie the narratives of Unbreakable and Split together.
Glass sees Willis’s Dunne still fighting the good fight, saving folks, McAvoy’s multiple personalities, known as the horde, still abducting young women and offering them up to the Beast, and Jackson’s Glass seemingly in a vegetative state in a mental hospital. When Dunne and the Beast face off, both are subdued and committed to the same mental hospital led by a Dr. Staple (Sarah Paulson).
Staple’s is apparently an expert on delusions of grandeur, particularly those who think they are superheroes. It is her M.O. to try and convince these three patients that their assumptions about what they believe is fantasy. Of course, as soon as they are made aware of each other’s presence, shit goes bad. The combination of these three disparate stories is, at first, interesting. They successfully lay threads that beg to be expanded on. But quickly, those threads get marred with incredulous and contrived actions that defy logic.
Again, Shyamalan sacrifices consistency of character for the chance to pander to the expectation of the almighty twist. Because of this, I had a few of them pegged before the end (and there are a few of them), as I’m sure many did. Anya Taylor-Joy’s excellent heroine from Split gets relegated to a thankless supporting role. All the main characters also take a hit in characterization and are not the men we met in previous entries. Some of their choices are dumbfounding and do not make sense -- all for the almighty service of the twist(s).
The dialogue ranges from succinct and punchy to verbose and downright boring. The overuse of comic book allusions is long, clumsy and a cinematic bore. They essentially tell the audience what’s coming instead of SHOWING US, which is death on screen.
The big twist had the potential to be something interesting but is delivered in such a dull way and with such an unremarkable conclusion that one can only shrug their shoulders. It’s quite a let- down.
The film looks great, and is the one place where the director shows some imagination. Sound design also gets a big thumb up.
Unfortunately, Glass is a convoluted, dull, bloated mess, and a depressing conclusion to what some refer to as the ‘Eastrail 177 Trilogy’. It suffers from its director’s seemingly undying need to recapture the twist success of The Sixth Sense. What it lacks is that film’s understanding of audience perception and character.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “R” for violence, including some bloody images, thematic elements, and language.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.