Simmering, superpowered thriller arrives in ‘Glass’ (4K Ultra HD review)
WASHINGTON. The latest thriller from filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan that helped resolve his superpowered universe left critics yawning. He now looks to tempt viewers obsessed by the ultra-high definition format in Glass (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 129 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $44.98).
Delivering the adventures of angst-ridden vigilante David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and hyper-intellectual villain Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), the film gives fans a conclusion they have yearned for since the release of “Unbreakable” nearly 20 years ago.
Glass: The story
The story finds Dunn, now nicknamed the Overseer, hunting the split personality monster Kevin Crumb aka the Horde (James McAvoy), who kidnaps and kills teenage girls.
Their confrontation, arrest and eventual institutionalization lead to the duo interacting with a near comatose Mr. Glass in a mental hospital. There, psychiatrist Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) tries to prove to the boys that their superpowers are a delusion.
A character-driven story
Mr. Shyamalan shuns the excess of recent superhero blockbusters to deliver a dialogue-driven story simmering with a couple of clever twists and lots of character examination. It’s a more refreshing approach than the standard, typically intense, action-driven movie we generally see in movie theaters today.
Performances shine throughout Glass, led by Mr. McAvoy. He brings the same level of chaotic energy to the role he created in “Split” (the second part of the trilogy), switching among 23 personalities with literally the flash of a light and exposing his muscle-bound Beast when needed.
Suffice it to report, fans will truly be thrilled by the subdued exploits and seeing older characters onscreen with even David’s young son Joseph from “Unbreakable” making a return. He’s played by a grown up Spencer Treat Clark.
However, average movie viewers may be scratching their heads during the extended, simmering exposition. Specifically, if the Russo brothers can directorially bring to life such eye-popping spectacles such as “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War” while managing to inject plenty of character pathos and emotional crescendos, it should have been easy for the talented Mr. Shyamalan to offer a much more dynamic thriller.
4K in action
The 4K transfer, from a reportedly 4K master format, certainly offers a crisp presentation of the film. But since much of the action in Glass gets confined to a sterile white-and-grey hospital and remains devoid of overwhelming computer-generated effects, it’s hard to really appreciate.
The film’s best moments occur when the lead characters appear against the monochromatic rooms and hallways (reference a bubblegum-pink massive room). In this environment, the focus is on facial detail and costuming (such as the pockets of purples around Mr. Glass).
However, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack surrounds viewers with West Dylan Thordson’s sparse but excellent score. It adds incredible tension to numerous scenes through its aggressive use of string instruments and percussion. (It was actually recorded in the abandoned institution where the movie takes place).
This new edition of Glass offers a bonus collection of 12 deleted scenes and an alternate opening leads the bonus content, all contained on the 4K disc.
A much-welcomed, optional introduction to each scene by the director helps explore his motivation for cutting or altering scenes that often showcase the work Mr. McAvoy.
While viewers move through the entire 28 minutes of this content, Mr. Shyamalan also reminds them that the first cut of film was 3 hours and 20 minutes. Clearly, plenty of difficult decisions had to be made on the final theatrical release which is devoid of these scenes.
Next, a dozen short Glass-related featurettes (averaging 4 minutes) explore the production of the film. These cover a wide range of topics, such as the use of an abandoned mental hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania, as the film’s primary location. Also highlighted: the stunt work in a pair of fight scenes, the sparse use of computer effects, the reintroduction of the main characters and the actors, and how all the series films tie together.
The director offers his insights throughout all these segments. The best of the bunch is a casual 5-minute sit-down discussion between Mr. McAvoy and Mr. Shyamalan.
Note: This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.
—Headline image: Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy) channels the Beast in “Glass,”
now available on 4K Ultra HD from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.