- The Usual Suspects (1995, Bryan Singer)
- The Spanish Prisoner (1998, David Mamet)
- Memento (2000, Christopher Nolan)
But after The Sixth Sense, came Unbreakable (2000) and I thought it was one of the most boring premises I'd ever heard and avoided it. As I imagined it: a guy can't break. So, let me guess? He gets hit by stuff but doesn't get hurt? Pass. Then Signs (2002) and The Village (2004) made me so bored I was angry. Henceforth I would refer to Shyamalan as a hack with one good movie who had subsequently stretched out narratives The Twilight Zone could have executed in 20 minutes into 2 hour atrocities.
Then 10 years later I decided to give Split (2016) a shot. Split was intimate, haunting, bolstered by the disturbing backstory of Anya Taylor-Joy's character as motivation to fight back, MPD villain, and an out of nowhere Shyamalan twist. It was better than I expected. I don't like to put down an entire body of work by a reputable director without actually having seen it, so after Split I had a week where I tracked down Unbreakable, engrossing character-driven dark modern take on superhero genre, Lady in the Water (2006), cheesy Twilight Zone reject, The Happening (2008), weird misfire gratuitously violent life affirming grown-up romance with a hippie twist and his only R rated movie, The Last Airbender (2010), After Earth (2013), boring kids movies and The Visit (2015), a throwaway Goosebumps.
Regrettably, I allowed myself to be hooked by Split's twist into...
Glass (2019, Shyamalan) is conceived as a sequel to Unbreakable and Split. However, while Unbreakable deftly does something new with the superhero genre and Split establishes its own formidable foothold alongside it with the psychological horror genre, Glass is nothing more than an amalgam of its predecessors that comes off as a disappointing forgery.
The advertising campaign depicts another gripe I have, which is having these three superheroes in the same mental institution and treated. And almost the entire movie takes place at this hospital. It sounds like a bad sitcom pitch and not where this universe should be evolving to. Unbreakable had his own movie; Split had his own movie; now baited with the tease of Sam Jackson's badass quote, "the name's Glass, first name: Mr.," and more importantly the title, I expected this to be Glass's movie. Alas I was duped. What's Mr. Glass's superpower? Superhuman intelligence. And he's a villain, right? So what do I get to see in Glass? He like hacks a computer.
Also Willis isn't compelling in his role because we already saw Unbreakable. We don't need a whole act that feels like exposition in case you haven't seen that movie. Same with McAvoy. The novelty of James McAvoy switching between a 9 year old boy, sophisticated matron, and a bunch of others that are forgettable in comparison was great in Split but why watch the exact same material again?
And the Shyamalan twist is so poorly conceived in Glass that Split loses the esteem I once paid it in retrospect. The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable are cool. And McAvoy's talent at portraying multiple characters is impressive, but not as enjoyable for me as Sellers in the Kubrick comedies.
I just realized Stanley Kubrick made comedies. I knew about Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964, Kubrick) since I was a kid. But I only just recently read Nabokov's Lolita again and watched Kubrick's Lolita (1962) then realized he adapted it into a comedy. The book is disturbing, dark, taboo, insightful, empathetic, romantic, and horrific, but not funny. The movie is nonstop awkward hilarious, and significantly due to Peter Sellers playing multiple roles.
Which brings me to my closing to simply put it that although I am negatively criticizing James McAvoy's portrayal of multiple characters as a novelty, I must admit my affinity for Sellers in Lolita and Dr. Strangelove where I find his performances virtuoso, worthy of repeated viewings, and sublimely comedic while also dramatically transcendent.