The Unbreakable-Split-Glass trilogy is now complete, but which is the best film? M. Night Shyamalan's latest movie, Glass, is the third and final installment of the creatively-protracted "Eastrail 177 trilogy".
The series began with 2000’s Unbreakable, in which a working-class man learns of his potential superpowers, while the surprise 2016 follow-up, Split, features a man suffering from dissociative identity disorder who kidnaps young women and ultimately transforms into "The Beast." They've now been brought together into a grand, semi-definitive finale with Glass, which sees David Dunn and Elijah Price reunited, and Kevin Wendell Crumb's various personalities employed by the supervillain to enact his long-gestating masterplan.
Now that the shards have settled on Glass’ numerous twists, and its additional surprising connections Unbreakable and Split, it’s time to address important filmmaking questions about the Eastrail 177 trilogy as a whole. Find out the best movie in our ranking of Unbreakable, Split and Glass.
Connecting the narratives of both Unbreakable and Split, Glass aims high but feels entirely didactic with its storytelling. In the primary plot, Unbreakable's reluctant hero David Dunn (Bruce Willis) has become vigilante “The Overseer,” but is captured while battling Split's antagonist Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) aka “The Horde.” Both men are institutionalized alongside a heavily-sedated Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) aka Mr. Glass, all the while being examined by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychiatrist who specializes in treating people with “delusions of grandeur.”
For the average viewer, Glass may feel like a relative success. Shyamalan addresses unresolved questions and properly explains the motivations for each character, exploring how their decisions connect to faith, family, and mental health. The problem is that Shyamalan relishes in overt wink-of-the-eye moments, including his own cameo early on. In terms of the typical superhero genre, this type of filmmaking works as it feels at once endearing and welcoming. However, Shyamalan typically succeeds for the most part with restraint, when he trusts the audience to connect A, B, and C with little exposition.
So, with an engaging story already in place, Glass’ dialogue becomes a crucial factor. Once again, Shyamalan takes a heavy-handed approach while underlining thematic concepts, like how the characters’ lives connect to comic book tropes (Glass makes it clear that it’s an “origin story”). Given the narrative scope, this makes sense, and it allows viewers of various demographics to fully understand the implications. With that said, the delivery often feels awkward, most notably in terms of Jackson’s title character. As a result, the collective performances feel less impactful. Fortunately, the primary female leads - Paulson and Split's Anya Taylor-Joy - deliver remarkable supporting performances, as they’re mostly allowed to interpret the moment rather than Shyamalan's didactic commentary.
In the long run, McAvoy’s Glass performance will be fundamental to the film's legacy. As the narrative progresses, it’s not hard to imagine Shyamalan scripting Crumb's personality switches, instigated by an almost-too-clever plot device. While the guiding dialogue and sudden personality transitions once again feel like Shyamalan patting himself on the back, McAvoy delivers an effective, semi-comedic performance, fully selling each personality through non-verbals. As a whole, Glass feels messy and over-explanatory, but there’s value to be found in the narrative and genre concepts.