M Night Shyamalan’s Glass completes what is surely one of the most bizarre trilogies to ever emerge from mainstream Hollywood. It succeeds neither as a sequel to Unbreakable or Split, and instead emerges as a genre dogs dinner that doubles down on narrative stupidity. That it is entertaining in any way is something of a miracle.
It is difficult to discuss the plot without alluding to plot spoilers for both of the afore-mentioned (much better) films. If you haven’t seen them, I suggest going back to view them first, then returning to this review if you are morbidly curious about events in Glass. Said events pick up some years after Unbreakable and shortly after the events of Split, with David Dunn aka “The Overseer” (Bruce Willis) still doing his hooded raincoat vigilante superhero thing. Meanwhile it’s a regular day for multiple personality psychopath Kevin (James McAvoy), doing his usual thing of abducting teenage girls and subjecting them to the seemingly super-powered attentions of his scariest personality “The Beast”. A chain of events too idiotic to detail here results in both Kevin and David being incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital under the care of Dr Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who also has brittle boned, evil mastermind Elijah Price aka Glass (Samuel L Jackson) heavily sedated and under observation. Her apparent plan? To convince all three that they do not have superpowers, and are in fact mentally ill. Needless to say, David’s teenage son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) is less than thrilled that his father is now imprisoned, and tries to get him out. At the same time, Kevin’s former would-be victim Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) has seemingly developed a convenient case of Stockholm Syndrome, giving her the perfect excuse to start visiting Kevin. These various plot threads eventually converge, and entangle themselves in a lunatic tapestry of incoherence.
Let’s be clear: Glass is an absolute mess of a film. It is tonally all over the place, as though Batman and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre shared a universe, and were then obliged to share a sequel. Not only that, the pacing is wildly uneven, with the middle act in particular dragging ahead of a barmy third act that piles on twist after twist. Each turn feels more preposterous than the last; secret powers, secret plans within secret plans, secret societies and a final secret so deranged that it doesn’t so much require the suspension of disbelief as the expulsion of disbelief. The icing on this demented cake is the way the screenplay takes this nonsense so utterly seriously, with not one wink or nod, ironically making matters even more hilariously daft.
And yet… I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the film. It is well directed and the performances are pretty good, despite everything. There is something undeniably fun about watching what was once a moderately interesting idea (in Unbreakable) stretched to breaking point in a kind of car-crash-in-slow-motion way. I can’t make up my mind whether being so deliberately straight-faced amid plot holes the size of a sinkhole deserves points for sheer audaciousness. Perhaps not, but even so, Glass is a maddening experience; utterly insane yet also not bereft of guilty pleasures.