M. Night Shyamalan combines his 2000 Unbreakable with his 2016 Split in a sort of Avengers Dissemble.



Beastly James McAvoy


There’s nothing new about the cross-fertilisation of movie characters. As early as 1943, Universal Studios brought us Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, while the same company’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) introduced the titular duo to Frankenstein’s monster, Count Dracula and the Wolf Man. In the 1960s, the Japanese were at it with King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), and more recently we’ve had Freddy vs. Jason (2003), Alien vs. Predator (2004), et al. Now, though, it's an epidemic. However, M. Night Shyamalan’s foray into the sub-genre takes on a slightly different approach and has involved no small amount of narrative back peddling.


Following a dearth of sizeable hits since his 2002 Signs, Shyamalan has built on the commercial success of his last film, Split (2016), with James McAvoy, and threaded it into the fabric of his 2000 mystery-thriller Unbreakable. The earlier film not only starred Bruce Willis as an indestructible security guard but Samuel L. Jackson as a man called Elijah Price, who suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition that rendered his bones as brittle as, well, glass. In the new film, Elijah insists on being called Mr Glass, which may suit his character but hardly makes for a punchy moniker for a superhero movie. Avengers Dissemble might have proved more apt.


In Split, James McAvoy excelled himself as a schizophrenic with 24 distinct personalities, including a Hulk-like alter ego known as ‘The Beast’. The latter transformation made him a scary antagonist – and a killer – but it was the array of other disparate personalities that made McAvoy and, indeed, Split, so vastly compelling. Two years on and James McAvoy – let’s call him Kevin – has kidnapped a quartet of cheerleaders and is holding them hostage in an abandoned warehouse in Philadelphia. However, he’s spotted by Bruce Willis’s indestructible David Dunn, the latter acting as a vigilante (cf. Death Wish), who uses his superpowers to apprehend the sinful. The resultant punch-up spills out onto the street and both Kevin and David are arrested and confined to a psychiatric research facility. There, they begin therapy under the auspices of Dr Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson with a lisp), whose job it is is to rid her patients of their delusions of grandeur. They think they’re superhuman, she doesn’t. And, lo and behold, another of her subjects is Glass, Mr Glass.


While Samuel L. Jackson may hog the title role, James McAvoy monopolizes the running time, which is a good thing. His performance is a masterclass in metamorphosis. Even so, much of Glass feels like a set-up for something else and Shyamalan is at pains to obfuscate the obvious, crosscutting between scenes and filling the screen with disembodied voices, hands, the backs of heads, and so on. For a while, this pervading sense of mystery keeps us intrigued and there are nifty distractions along the way. I wasn’t bored. Besides, Shyamalan is a masterful filmmaker and I enjoyed Sarah Paulson’s lisp. Of course, it’s one big tease and doesn’t fully explain itself until the final line of dialogue when Charlayne Woodard, as Elijah's mother, states, “I know what this is, it’s…” Unfortunately, due to the actress’s enunciation (or the sound editing), the last line was lost on me. And, frankly, I was left none the wiser.




Cast: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, Adam David Thompson, M. Night Shyamalan.


Dir M. Night Shyamalan, Pro M. Night Shyamalan, Jason Blum, Marc Bienstock and Ashwin Rajan, Screenplay M. Night Shyamalan, Ph Mike Gioulakis, Pro Des Chris Trujillo, Ed Luke Ciarrocchi and Blu Murray, Music West Dylan Thordson, Costumes Paco Delgado.


Blinding Edge Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/Buena Vista International-Walt Disney.

129 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 18 January 2019. Cert. 15.