“Glass”

                       

            The incomparable M. Night Shyamalan draws on his own previous movies, “Unbreakable” and “Split.”  In the first, the premise is that David Dunn (Bruce Willis), being the only survivor of a train wreck, is dubbed by the mysterious stranger Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) as “unbreakable,” that is, possessing a kind of superhuman strength.  But he does have a distinct weakness: having barely survived a near-drowning as a child, he has a terrible fear of water.  In “Split,” a deranged man with multiple personalities, played by James McAvoy, kidnaps young women, one of whom, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) learns to speak to his different characters.

            In “Glass,” these characters are reunited, and interact with each other.  Elijah Price is also known as Mr. Glass, and though he has a brittle-bone genetic condition, he is brilliant, though dangerous, because he also believes that some humans really do have superpowers, and he tries to encourage that, even when their “acting out” causes damage to property and even harm to others. The good news is that his Mother still believes in him and dotes on him, even though he's now in a mental institution.

            He's joined there by David Dunn, who's managed to attract the attention of both the public and the police by being a self-styled vigilante, corraling petty criminals without any official authorization.  The local gendarmes consider him a menace, and so they round him up, along with the multiple-personality-guy, and now all three are in the same mental instution, presided over by the staff psychiatrist, Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson).  She claims to be a specialist in treating this particular mental illness, this fantasy of considering oneself a superhero, which she claims was likely brought on by a childhood experience of helplessness.  So we viewers get lots of psychiatric sessions with our infamous patients, one of whom, Mr. Green, is so uncooperative as to quit talking altogether.  But, it turns out there's still a sharp mind behind all those thousand-yard-stares and mouth twitches.

            We're already tettering on the edge of that fine line between reality and fantasy.  But Mr. Shyamalan challenges us to consider that we may have more “superpowers” among us than we think.  He also borrows a premise from the “Star Wars” series, which, as you may recall, claims that for every positive recipient of “The Force,” there's an equivalent “Dark Side.”  Thus, the Jedi Knights are always striving against the evil Sith.  The existence of one mandates the other.  The premise here in “Glass” is that every time a superhero emerges, so does a corresponding villain (basic comic book fare).  So, the argument goes, there just might be a secret group out there trying to prevent people from realizing their “super” potential, for fear of that creating a corresponding evil.  To project the debate on more cosmic terms, if God is in the Bible, does there also have to be Satan?

            Well, there are simpler aspects to the plot.  Mr. Glass has his attentive Mom, and David Dunn has his loyal grown son, and our split-personality guy has----a sympathetic victim?  Mr. Shyamalan even makes a cameo appearance, a la Alfred Hitchcock, or later, Stan Lee.  Mr. Shyamalan definitely creates his own little unique shadow-world.  What remains to be seen is how many people want to pay to visit it for a while.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association