Set within the world established by 2000’s Unbreakable, security guard David Dunn uses his supernatural abilities to track Kevin Wendell Crumb, a disturbed man who has twenty-four personalities. (adapted from IMDb)
Before I get started, please know I openly discuss and recap things from Unbreakable and Split here, spoiling some key elements. I also relate them to Glass, mentioning a couple potential mini-spoilers, but I try not to divulge too much.
In 2000, newly acclaimed director M. Night Shyamalan, who made a name for himself with 1999’s sleeper hit, The Sixth Sense, released his next blockbuster, again starring Bruce Willis. Unbreakable centered around a man named David Dunn (played by Willis) who miraculously survived a train wreck, serving as the lone survivor, emerging without a scratch on him. Dunn is then sought out by a mysterious man named Elijah Price who calls himself Mr. Glass (played by Samuel L. Jackson) due to a unique disease he possesses that makes his bones extremely brittle. Price found solace from his condition at a young age in comic books (a gift from his mother), coming to believe that the extraordinary characters within their flashy pages are inspired by real life people. He then adopts the belief that, if he is as breakable as glass, there must be someone out there who is unbreakable. By the end of the film, Dunn has become a believer in his strength and the two walk away as some sort of hero and nemesis pair… and Price ends up being taken into a mental institution to be treated for his delusions of grandeur (as well as some atrocities he committed). Unfortunately, the film wasn’t really marketed right, and audiences were divided (should I say “split?”) on how they felt about it. M. Night Shyamalan had planned a trilogy involving these characters, but its poor reception caused the idea to be scrapped. Fast forward 16 years and M. Night released the psychological thriller Split at the beginning of 2017. That film surprisingly became a critical and box office success, as the story centered on James McAvoy playing a man with 23 different unique personalities. In the film, his character kidnaps 3 teenage girls and holds them hostage, telling them they will be sacrifices for a 24th personality–a superhuman one–he called The Beast. At the end of the film, after one of the girls (Casey Cooke, played by Anya Taylor-Joy) escapes, the news brands his character as The Horde, which prompts a random person in a diner to comment that this reminds her of another person caught 15 years prior, but she couldn’t remember the name. The camera then pans over to Bruce Willis sitting there, sipping coffee wearing a shirt bearing the name patch “Dunn” and informs her, “Mr. Glass.”
To say that discovering something as crazy as Split was part of the world of Unbreakable is shocking to say the least. But it was no doubt exciting for anyone who knew or enjoyed the 2000 film. Just a few short months after Split left the theaters in 2017, Night announced a sequel that would unite the characters from both Unbreakable and Split, and he already had his title: Glass. By the end of 2017, production had actually moved to our own backyard, taking over an abandoned mental hospital in Allentown, PA to serve as an active, fictional mental hospital in Philadelphia. (Fun little trivia: my wife, Amy, actually served as an extra on the set for one day, and as it turns out, the back of her is visible in a very brief scene towards the end of Glass!)
When the film Glass opens, we discover that Dunn has been masquerading as a vigilante at night, clothed in his signature green poncho, as seen in Unbreakable, and inacting justice on criminals in the city of Philadelphia. We quickly learn that it’s only 3 weeks after the events of Split, and Dunn is on the hunt for The Horde. At his side, helping behind the scenes, is his son, Joseph (reprised by actor Spencer Treat Clark), helping him behind the scenes. It’s certainly a treat to get to see Dunn in action again, this many years later–especially in a sequel I’m sure few ever expected to see. Without spoiling too much, much of Glass ends up taking place at the Ravenhill mental hospital, and it’s kept pretty small and intimate, like Split did. Most of Split involved about five characters, and there are only a handful more in Glass. With this framework in place, the story focuses a great deal on the psychological nature of these extraordinary people, deconstructing each one as Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Ellie Staple tries to get to the root of their beliefs and find out why they believe themselves to be superhuman. It’s a superhero film without really being a superhero film, and it recaptures some of the thematic feel of Unbreakable while injecting it with the psychological games of Split. The end result is unique, clever, and entirely intriguing.
Because Glass is essentially a marriage of Unbreakable and Split, McAvoy’s character is the root of more disturbing themes and characters. Without spoiling too much (if I haven’t already, and I apologize if I have), his character still bounces between personalities, including the blood-thirsty The Beast. The film starts out with him already having another group of girls in captivity (this was shown in the trailers), and it mirrors some aspects of Split. Except, this time, we have Dunn’s character in the picture working to save them. The major difference with how The Horde’s personalities are portrayed here, however, is that many of them are used for comedic purposes. Removed from the captive/captor setting of the previous outing, his identity-hopping is far more entertaining. (Seriously, give McAvoy an Oscar already!) Still, The Beast gets more screentime, and it allows for a few brutal killings to occur during the course of the film (although it’s done in a bit less of a “horror” presentation as the first one). Secondly, the film deals a bit with the topic of Stockholm Syndrome, which really surprised me. Without divulging too much, I was surprised at the turn that a character took, and how it came into play for the story. But, ultimately, Glass serves as a complex examination of what our real world might be like if a few superhuman people existed, and the way Night portrays this is really interesting.
The only downside to the intense focus on the psychological breakdown of these characters–and the fact that the film doesn’t leave the hospital grounds much–is that it allows for a lot of dialog-heavy scenes. The eventual union of the three characters in a psychological evaluation by Dr. Staple ends up feeling a bit too talk-heavy and long, while a few other scenes tend to drag just a tad. Still, anyone who’s become invested in these characters through the years are likely to enjoy seeing Willis and Jackson in their respective roles again, poised to engage in a battle of strength and of the mind. Sure, the film does have a few key action scenes, but they hardly ever reach the heights you’d expect in a superhero film. In fact, I think this is purposeful given that Night never wants the superhuman elements to seem too over-the-top or surreal. The other disappointing aspect is the lack of screen time for Willis’ Dunn. I recently updated my 2000 Unbreakable review to express my grown appreciation for the film (I’ve upped my original score from 3 to 4.5 and added an explanation at the bottom as to why), and I was most excited to see Willis reprise Dunn in Glass. In this film, Dunn seems a bit broken and tired, and it’s tough to know if it’s just how Willis chose to play him (i.e. more phoning it in than going all-in), or how Night wanted Dunn to be portrayed. Willis shines brightest in the film’s early scenes, but things unfortunately fizzle in an unsatisfying way by the film’s conclusion. It’s probably the main thing I wasn’t crazy about with Glass. (And Night has said that the first cut of the film was 3-and-a-half hours long, so that makes me wonder if a lot of Dunn’s scenes ended up on the cutting room floor for the sake of the narrative.)
As you can imagine, the content in Glass has elements from both Unbreakable and Split in them. The Beast crushes a person’s bones in a bear hug once again, but this time it’s a longer segment, and after the body falls to the ground out of frame, he repeatedly beats the body violently (we don’t see the impact, just the motions). There’s also another scene where The Beast tackles a man and we see from the victim’s perspective as he begins eating the person just off-screen to the side (we don’t see this or the Beast’s face, we just see the side of his head and hear the sounds), and then we see The Beast come back into frame with blood on his mouth and fingers as he licks them. Previously, there’s a shocking scene where a man is suddenly slit in the throat, which we don’t see graphically, but we see it from behind the victim and hear all the related sound effects, and then see a bloody shard of glass get thrown to the floor. We then see the body from a distance lying on a bed with a blood stain under their head (which grows larger in shots we see of this that follow). Finally, a character is shot, and we see their bare abdomen from their perspective when they look down, and we see lots of blood pour out of the wound before they cover it with their hands (and we see it again a couple times with more blood pooling around their hands). Language is infrequent, but there are a couple uses of the “S” word and some blasphemy (even from M. Night during his brief cameo). There are several moments that are intense or even shocking, and aspects of the finale are somewhat disturbing. There are definitely quite a few deaths at the end of the movie, as well, and some are sad to watch. The themes of the film add a lot of weight to the proceedings as well, continuing to examine our purposes in life, how we process tragedy and trauma, and even our own perceptions of ourselves and others in our lives.
Glass is an unexpected and unusual finale to a modest but worthwhile trilogy. Unbreakable was a film that grew better with time, while Split is a disturbing thriller that had great acting, an intriguing premise, and was made much better (to me at least), by its ties to Unbreakable. Glass is the culmination of the two, and a fair mix of tone and content from both, so if you didn’t like either one, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t like Glass. Still, I’d say Glass is less menacing, disturbing or scary than Split, but it still has moments that could be described by each of those adjectives, mostly because of the presence of The Beast character. If you liked either film, check out Glass. It’s not your usual superhero/comic book film, and M. Night’s cinematic creative genius makes the film a much more worthwhile experience than your usual fantastical fare–just don’t go in expecting an action-packed thrill ride.
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 1/19/19)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: Kevin, as his Jade personality, lays on the floor and flirts with the orderly, Daryl. He then breaks into the childlike Hedwig who mocks Daryl by putting his hand down his own pants making a masturbation movement, teasing him for being charmed by Jade, and makes a remark about (Daryl) getting a “hard-on” from it. (He didn’t. Daryl just continues to watch him bewildered and confused by all of the personality shifts.) It’s all played for laughs, however.
Vulgarity/Language: 3 “S” words, 1 “G-dd*mn,” 1 “J-sus,” 4 “a” words (including a list with a bunch of them written down in a notebook), 2 “b*tch,” 1 “b*stard,”1 “Oh my G-d,” and one use of the middle finger.
Alcohol/Drugs: We see some people in a restaurant having drinks in two scenes; In the hospital, patients are given sedatives and drugs to alter their nature.
Blood/Gore: We see various scars on Elijah’s face, hands and arms from apparent previous surgeries for all of his various broken bones; Some SPOILERS lie ahead: In a sudden, somewhat shocking moment, a man quickly reaches up and slices another man’s throat (we don’t see the cut, just the man from behind). We then see blood on a shard of glass when Elijah throws it down. The man grabs his throat and chokes and lays down on a bed in the background as he lays dying. We never see the wound up close, but we see several shots of the man laying down on the bed and varying degrees of blood pooling under his head and down the side of the bed throughout the following scenes; We see a flashback of Elijah as a young boy in a Tilt-A-Whirl at a carnival, as it knocks him around inside the car, breaking his bones as he screams. We then briefly see his arm looking broken and disfigured as he lies on the floor of the Tilt-A-Whirl car; Kevin, as The Beast, has big scars on his chest and abdomen from the wounds he sustained in Split (and we see these scars often); We see a flashback from Split of The Beast with blood on his mouth as he pulls the zoo cell bars apart; We see the side of The Beast’s face as he eats a man’s face just off screen (we hear it). We then see him pull back into view and have blood all over his mouth as he puts his bloody fingers in his mouth. We then see him for a few moments with blood smeared around his mouth afterward; A man has a lot of blood caked under his nose and around his mouth as he lays dying; A man is shot and we see him look down–from his perspective–as blood begins pouring out of his bare abdomen. He puts his hands over the wound and we see lots of blood under and around his hands as he dies.
Violence: Some SPOILERS lie ahead: We see a teenager deliver a flying punch to an innocent bystander on the street, knocking them to the ground, while another kid tapes it for posting online. The Overseer then goes to their house and throws the guy who punched the victim against a wall; We see four cheerleaders tied by chains to a pole in a factory, with members of The Horde threatening to feed them to The Beast; The Overseer fights The Beast, and the two punch and push each other. Beast throws a table at him, which Overseer catches and throws back, and then the Beast throws it again, but it hits one of the cheerleaders, injuring them (we don’t see much of this). The girls then carry their friend off to safety; Beast gives Overseer a bear hug to try to crush him, but Overseer throws the both of them through a window to the ground below. The pair are then apprehended at gunpoint by authorities; A male nurse, thinking Elijah has been getting out of his room, threatens to drop a large metal flashlight on Elijah’s fragile legs. He then does let it go, but catches it just before it would hit Elijah’s legs; In a sudden, somewhat shocking moment, a man quickly reaches up and slices another man’s throat (we don’t see the cut, just the man from behind). We then see blood on a shard of glass when Elijah throws it down. The man grabs his throat and chokes and lays down on a bed in the background as he lays dying. We never see the wound up close, but we see several shots of the man laying down on the bed and varying degrees of blood pooling under his head and down the side of the bed throughout the following scenes; We see a flashback from Split of The Beast with blood on his mouth as he pulls the zoo cell bars apart; We see a flashback of Elijah as a young boy in a Tilt-A-Whirl at a carnival, as it knocks him around inside the car, breaking his bones as he screams. We then briefly see his arm looking broken and disfigured as he lies on the floor of the Tilt-A-Whirl car (this was also a deleted scene from the original cut of Unbreakable and is on the DVD for that movie); We hear David gasping for air as water drains out of his hospital cell, after he had been subdued by his captors; The Horde continually runs at the door of his cell to get out, but lights flash, causing his personalities to change (and he sometimes looks like he’s in pain as he’s doing this); The Beast wraps his arms around a male nurse from behind and squeezes him. The victim struggles and appears to be in great pain as we hear the sound of things cracking as his bones break. Beast then does one final twist that kills the man and he drops to the ground. We then see Beast violently smashing the body–out of the picture frame, so we don’t see the aftermath–and we hear the smashing sounds (it’s pretty violent and shocking); The Beast fights several guards in a basement tunnel, throwing them around; Dunn smashes through his cell door and we see it fall to the ground; The Beast forces two women into the back of a van. David slams Beast against the side of the van repeatedly (we see the girls inside as they get tossed around). David then lets them out of the van and tells them to run inside of the hospital; Beast attacks many soldiers with vests and guns and beats on their riot gear. Some guys are pulled out of view behind a car where we hear animal sounds and screaming. We then see the side of The Beast’s face as he eats a man’s face just off screen (we hear it). We then see him pull back into view and have blood all over his mouth as he puts his bloody fingers in his mouth. We then see him for a few moments with blood smeared around his mouth afterward; Beast overturns a car with security/police inside; The Beast grabs Elijah’s shoulder, breaking his bones, and then slams his palm into his chest, crushing his ribcage, causing fatal wounds; Beast throws Dunn into a water tank and the two fight in there until the side breaks, spilling them onto the ground. Dunn struggles to breathe and gasps for air; A man is shot and we see him look down–from his perspective–as blood begins pouring out of his bare abdomen. He puts his hands over the wound and we see lots of blood under and around his hands as he dies; A man holds another man’s face in a deep puddle of water until he drowns to death; We see a video showing the Beast overturning a car with security/police inside.