Glass

GLASS. Starring: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-joy, and Casey Cooke. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Rated M (Mature themes and violence). 129 min.

This American film, billed as a superhero thriller, is a sequel to M. Night  Shymalan’s two previous films, “ Unbreakable” (2000) and “Split” (2016). Members of the cast reprise the roles they took in previous films.

Bruce Willis returns as David Dunn, and Samuel L. Jackson returns as Elijah Price, alias Mr. Glass. Price is the person in control of the multiple personalities absorbed within the psyche of Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), alias The Beast. The film uses thriller and horror elements to tell its story, and Anya Taylor-Joy returns as Casey Cooke, the only person captured by The Beast who has managed to survive. David Dunn is a Security guard, who has supernatural abilities and he uses them to track Kevin Crumb, who is psychotically disturbed and has 24 different personalities. The most disturbed of the personalities is The Beast, who is the last personality of the 24.

Dr. Stapel (Sarah Paulson, a new member of the cast) is a research psychiatrist, who deals specifically with patients who believe they have super-human powers. She thinks their behaviour can be explained rationally. It is their beliefs that are the real problem to her, and breaking down the belief structures will solve the problem. Dunn, Price and Crumb are inmates in an institution under her probing scrutiny, and each of them believes - and shows - super-human capacity.

Clinically, the movie is grounded to the dissociative identity disorder of multiple personality, but its treatment of multiple personality is unrealistic. It uses shock, surprise, and plot twists to hold its  suspense. The psychological validity of the syndrome is not the film’s concern, as was the case in “The Three Faces of Eve” (1957) which reflected the viewpoint of the doctors who treated Eve. James McAvoy, however, trying to cope with 24 different personalities - all trying to break out - gives a bravura performance as he vacillates from one personality to another with striking exhibitionistic display.

The film itself illustrates comic-book, superhero prowess with impressive special effects and shadowy cinematography. They show Dunn’s excessive strength and his super-sensory ability, and Crumb’s super-motor flexibility as The Beast, especially well. As predictable, the film provides bloody images of violence and grim happenings.

The final movie in a trilogy by the same Director gives this movie its main significance. The film demonstrates the end pursuit of Crumb by Dunn, the horror that occurs when The Beast is on the loose, and the mystery of Elijah Price, who is controlling what happens from a wheelchair. The film pursues modern comic book relevance and significance by examining what being a Super-hero, or Super-villain is supposed to mean, which provides interesting commentary on Super-heroes and Super- villains appearing on a wide variety of cinema screens, world-wide.

There are moments of solid tension as Shyamalan amply demonstrated in “The Sixth Sense” (1999), which was one of the best thriller-supernatural movies of the late 1990s. That film brilliantly combined evidence of mental disturbance with the supernatural. This film has a different thrust. As the movie which completes the trilogy of an imaginative Director, ultimate appeal in this movie is to horror cinema with elements of mystery, thriller, and the Director’s philosophical reflections thrown in to cement the mix.

This film closes a story that began with the “Untouchables”. It provide a turbulent climax to the series, and poses a host of philosophical questions about so-called fantasy figures, of the superhero variety, who may or may not have skills that are realistically honed, and should  be appreciated for whatever special abilities they have. A final paranoid plot-teaser is worth the wait.

Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting

Walt Disney Studios

Released January 17th., 2019