Stop reading this review if you haven’t seen its predecessors, because I’m going to be, like the movie, running off of them. It’s been 19 years and real-life-Superman David Dunn (Bruce Willis) has been a vigilante known as The Overseer and his son now-all-grown-up, Joseph (played by Spencer Treat Clark, delightfully reprising his role from all the way back then) has been helping him with mapping out threats. Also, Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) or whichever identity he’s in at the moment, is still out there kidnapping teenage girls but the lone survivor of one of his crusades, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) has been adopted and is perfectly safe. Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) is still locked up in a mental institution for all the crimes he’s done to try to fish Dunn out. Then one day Dunn and Crumb lock horns and both end up in the institution along Price, with a snotty psychologist named Ellie Staples (Sarah Paulson) called in to try to explain there might be some delusions in their thinking. But Price has something brand new up his apparently paralyzed sleeve.
You know something fiction can do wonders of? Making up a story about people’s reactions to something. Movies and books that do this allow a chance to look at ourselves and our world through an entirely new eye and make us think about what we’d do and what others would do. This is obviously one of those films. On another note, while I didn’t like Split as much as I was hoping, that’s primarily because of its overly claustrophobic setting and an uninteresting buildup around McAvoy’s character(s) we kind of knew already. But now, with The Beast in a new setting, I liked McAvoy’s presence a lot more.
I heard Shyamalan wanted to make a sequel to Unbreakable several years ago, but the company in charge refused to finance it (even though it was a box office hit. I’m scratching my head too.) Now, by bringing back Dunn and Price after 19 years, we now have a chance to explore the study of time that takes tolls. And even though I only just saw Unbreakable a month ago, I can see how much Shyamalan knew fans would be excited to reunite. He doesn’t put them into what they may be expecting. In another dimension, I might’ve felt let down by this movie. But while I still wish there was more than we got, what we got is not something I’m bound to ever forget.
One unfortunate thing is the movie spends about 10 minutes with Staples making up alternatives to what we think happened in the last two movies. We know it’s all garbage, and it goes on for too long, but something good about this also is how it sheds light on the dangers of conspiracy theories and how easy it is to avoid the truth by denying it with something else. Staples scoffs at Price’s idea of comic books having framework of our universe and we scoff right back at her. Paulson does a good job of making us dislike her, like Nurse Ratched but not that menacingly.
Some viewers might be turned off with how Casey responds to seeing the man that almost killed her again. But in another light, not all his personalities were evil. We don’t get many reunions with a hero and villain as early as here, but thanks to Taylor-Joy’s completely believable acting, it worked. And Clark retains his innocent-sad-determined-and-scared composure. The best may come down to Charlayne Woodard as Price’s mom, (who, ironically, is younger than Samuel L. Jackson) someone who still clearly loves her son but wishes her love didn’t have to have what he did get in the way.
I also may be just hallucinating, but there were a lot of places in this film that looked like they were from Unbreakable. There’s an uncanny looking staircase in the opening and a significant school has a principal’s office that looks the same too. That can be hard to do in the time span. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I think they included a scene from Unbreakable they didn’t put in the first time to add to the story of Glass. The way it respects its last two movies is delightful.
The ending actually almost made me hate the movie. But then we get one of the most hands-on tantalizing twists I’ve ever seen, a real gasp of one nobody will expect. Shyamalan, you devil! I’m going to put, with this “*” under the conclusion of this review, a small explanation of some things in the ending that are spoiler-filled but neat.
M. Night Shyamalan is one twisted filmmaker. He knows how to make something seem at first protracted and incongruous until we’re slapped in the face by how mesmerizing and thought provoking it was, and he always seems to never care what others will think while at the drawing board. I can’t wait for his next craft.
* That ending was one that Infinity War was going for but couldn’t quite get. Also, if everything was on tape, including Staples ordering her men to kill Dunn, and it was sent out too, this would incriminate her and send her to prison. Her satisfying yell seemed to suggest that and I hope Shyamalan somehow proves my theory.