M. Night Shyamalan has had one of the most fascinating careers of any modern director. He began with two small films, then burst onto the scene with The Sixth Sense, the highest-grossing horror film ever. Time Magazine even called him "the next Spielberg." He followed that up with three successful but often misunderstood films, couching intimate stories of loss and bravery into science fiction packaging. Then, he wandered in the wilderness with four straight duds. He finally returned to his horror roots with The Visit, partnering with Jason Blum, the savviest producer in the business. Split was a bonafide hit. So Universal gave him $20 million to close out the trilogy he envisioned back in 2000, and Glass is the end result. It's one of the most baffling blockbusters ever.
Much more of a sequel to Split than to Unbreakable, James McAvoy is front and center once again as the Horde, giving a great performance in a film that's chock full of scenes that exist solely to marvel at how quickly he can change his voice and mannerisms to play one of his many distinct personalities.
Early on, the Horde and David (Bruce Willis) are captured and brought for observation at the same hospital that houses Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson). Sarah Paulson is great as usual, playing a psychologist who specializes in people who believe they have superpowers. Frankly, the movie is pretty inert until Elijah reveals his grand scheme. But for some bizarre reason, Shyamalan chooses to take the film in a completely different direction.
He also relies on three supporting characters for the emotional weight of the story, the only people who truly care for the three comic book characters: David's son (Spencer Treat Clark, reprising his role from Unbreakable), Elijah's mother (Charlayne Woodard back again, this time under horrible old-age make-up) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), the only victim the Horde let go. There's a love-conquers-all throughline that makes no sense based on where the story ends.
To say much more would drive us far into spoiler territory, and audiences deserve to behold this bewildering finale for themselves. The movie may be many things, but it is not the result of studio notes. This is Shyamalan's movie through and through. Why he chose to end it this way will keep me thinking about it for a long time.
Glass features terrific production design, excellent music and mostly solid performances. But it ends in such a majorly anti-climactic fashion that it can only be called a letdown. For a career defined by peaks and valleys, this is an oddly flat entry. What a twist.