Now that everybody is clear on what it’s all about (and if you don’t know and get mad about this, it’s really your fault), I can finally talk more about M. Night Shyamalan’s Split. I wasn’t a big fan of it, and a big reason why was during it, I wasn’t really sure what Shyamalan was going for. Near the end, I found myself thinking, “Is this the Unbreakable sequel he’s been wanting to make this whole time?” And as it turned out at the very, very end, I was actually right. The funniest thing about it all? I had never even seen Unbreakable at that point. That was until this week, when I suddenly had to fill myself in before viewing the finale to the trilogy. 
Taking place 19 years after Unbreakable and shortly after Split, David Dunn (Bruce Willis) works at his own security business, moonlighting as the hooded vigilante he became in the first film. When one of the criminals he attempts to take down is Kevin Crumb aka The Horde (James McAvoy), he and Kevin find themselves being captured and taken in by psychiatrist Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). Her goal is to prove to apparent “superpowered beings” that their powers are just mental delusions, and for them to overcome them. Another patient of Dr. Staple, Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) is also put under the same test, but he has something greater in mind. Something involving him, David, and Kevin… 
To be honest, when I watched it last week, I didn’t get what the big deal was about Unbreakable. It was decent, but it felt unfinished and unfocused, even if it was full of great ideas. Since I wasn’t a huge fan of that, nor Split, and also being ambivalent about Shyamalan in general, I was expecting nothing from Glass. Well, maybe the total lack of expectation was what I needed, because it’s honestly my favorite of the trilogy. My biggest issue with the first two films were how unfocused and inconsistent they felt, not really executing the ideas to their fullest potential. Well here, I feel like Shyamalan’s “realistic superhero world” is finally realized. 
After the first act sets everything up, we spend a majority of the film inside the mental institution with Dr. Staple and the three enhanced beings. It’s this middle act that primarily sets this apart from other superhero films. Shyamalan’s whole idea is breaking down the idea of comic book characters to their most grounded form, and the way he explores that they may just be mental delusions of the characters was quite fascinating. Of course, as we see in this and the other films, they’re obviously superpowered, but it’s interesting to examine, as there are mentally ill people in life who genuinely believe they’re reincarnations of Christ and whatnot. Since a large portion takes place in the institution, it does drag at times, but the excellent visuals and performances keep things interesting. 
The performances are all fantastic, especially McAvoy and Jackson. McAvoy plays about twice as many different personalities here than last time, and with each one, you can see his acting range getting larger and larger. He’s simply incredible and the way he plays the character makes him seem like he’s the only one who could truly pull it off. He constantly had me laughing, but always on the edge of uncomfortability. He has excellent chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson, who’s clearly having a good time being back in the role of Mr. Glass. His cunning, more reserved demeanor and Kevin’s over-the-top, psychopathic tendencies are a nice contrast to David’s more subdued character and performance by Bruce Willis. Willis has been the king of phoning in performances the past decade, but he’s actually not too bad here, even managing to show some genuine emotion in some scenes. He does feel somewhat underused, but his charisma actually shines through enough to make for an engaging performance. The criminally underused (at least in film) Sarah Paulson rounds out the excellent cast, playing the creepy, cold psychiatrist, elevating her thinly written character. It’s simply an excellent mix of certain performers doing what they do best, even if every other actor, like Anya Taylor-Joy, get shafted.

This isn’t an action movie at all and it never tries to be. It’s a drama that happens to be a superpowered people and one happens to obsessed with comic books. Aside from The Last Airbender (which is a masterpiece in ineptness), Shyamalan isn’t an action filmmaker and he clearly has no issue with that. The action scenes are sparse, but they actually mean something and have weight. The climactic fight is wonderfully small scale, making it much more personal, and the perfect antithesis to the giant, bombastic finales we typical see in the superhero genre. However, the action scenes are easily the weakest part in terms of direction, with a lot of awkward close-ups and cutaways that don’t really focus on it. It could have been due to the smaller budget, but the action could have been more exciting, even if it was still emotionally resonant. 
Shyamalan is still his stylish self, with a lot of fun camera tricks and a lot of neat, symmetrical cinematography. The colors are glorious too, especially in the design of the hospitals and the costumes the characters use. They all form a visual motif that really tie everything together, even being vastly different colors. West Dylan Thordson’s score really set the mood, expanding on his score from Split, brilliantly building a suspenseful and mysterious atmosphere. As palpable as the atmosphere is, there’s still a fair share of Shyamalan-isms, such as signature cheesy and odd dialogue, and weird characters, making the tone somewhat inconsistent. His cameo is particularly bad and just awkward. I’m convinced that Shyamalan is an alien doing his best impression of a human, but he’s not quite there yet. The last ten minutes are sure to be controversial with fans, though. It got pretty silly and completely came out of left field, but I thought it was an interesting conclusion to the overall story that made sense in the grand scheme of things. 
While he’s the definition of a “hit and miss” filmmaker, I would say that Glass was a hit for me. While Unbreakable and Split didn’t resonate the same way it did with others, I felt Glass was M. Night Shyamalan’s grand idea finally coming into it’s own. It has some tone issues and is incredibly cheesy, complete all of his trademark weirdness, but it has engrossing performances and a beautiful aesthetic. It wasn’t what I expected it to be at all, but that’s one of the best things about Shyamalan. You never know what you’re gonna get.

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