There’s a lengthy, terrific scene in Glass, in which the protagonists — three people with extraordinary abilities — are confronted both by each other and by a psychologist who is determined to prove to them that they aren’t superheroes, that they’re merely insane. It’s the natural emotional peak of a trilogy that M. Night Shyamalan started way back in 2000, with Unbreakable, and in a way it’s the real showdown (not the physical one that ends this film) that this series’ audience has supposedly been waiting years for. Unfortunately, the scene comes an hour into a film that busies itself by retelling most of the previous two films, as a means of maneuvering its characters into that room. Glass‘s molasses pacing, and its recapitulation of questions already asked and answered, constantly get in the way of its narrative and its emotional trajectory. The third act of the film — which it does eventually get to — contains another truckload of plot and a curious (Shyamalan-patented) last-minute twist that, due to the lateness of its arrival, feels tacked-on and inorganic — when it could have actually been the whole idea that fueled the film.
Glass‘s molasses pacing, and its recapitulation of questions already asked and answered, constantly get in the way of its narrative and its emotional trajectory.
This registers as a strange development for Shyamalan, who normally uses ambiguity and simple story economy to create mystery, rather than relying on exposition; removing that mystery makes Glass feel very long indeed. But the filmmaker’s formal gifts are still here in force: Never been in the habit of making ugly films, Glass is certainly as gorgeous as anything Shyamalan’s ever made, full of his idiosyncratic camera angles (which often place characters on the outskirts of frames or dwarf them in big spaces) and lush, strange palettes (every character gets their own special color). The director’s sometimes cloying sense of portent is here, too; it’s not for nothing that an artist who’s been slammed in the past for being an egotist and a control freak has made a series of films that are ostensibly about fighting back against a world that insists you aren’t special. Which is to say that, for better or worse, Glass is a Shyamalan movie through and through.