Here's a quick heads-up if you're going to see Glass. Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan's new puzzle-box of a film acts as a sequel to two others. Not in a linear way either - it forms a kind of triangle. 2000's Unbreakable and the more recent Split, each a self-contained story, form a base with Glass at the apex. Your enjoyment of the new movie may well hinge on how well-acquainted you are with the previous ones. Oh - and how willing you are to embrace Shyamalan's distinctive brand of crazy.
Now Glass brings all these leads together, courtesy of Sarah Paulson's Dr Ellie Staple. Working at a high security psychiatric facility, she already has multiple-murderer Price under her care. Then dramatic events result in both Dunn and Kevin coming into their orbit to make up arguably the most bizarre support group in the history of psychiatric medicine. Dr Staple's field of expertise (a strikingly modern one) is super-hero delusions. Her mission is to convince these apparently extraordinary men that they are in fact - ordinary. But could the chance uniting of the three lead to different, darker consequences than those she had intended?
Here's the thing about M. Night Shyamalan: even in his better films, he runs the risk of toppling over into the preposterous. Located in a muted real-world setting (as were Unbreakable and Split), Glass continually threatens to tip into absurdity, but just about succeeds in keeping its balance. The committed and irony-free performances help a lot with this. Willis is solid as the self-doubting hero, but he's eclipsed to some extent by the more showy turns. Jackson takes a while (due to heavy sedation) to blossom into Mr Glass's full steely-velvet malevolence, but it's worth the wait. And McAvoy builds on his outrageous physical performance from Split, revisiting the multiple personalities we know and adding a handful more for show. (Virtuoso stuff - a bit too showy for some, but I enjoy it.)
The interactions of the three inmates is a source of fun that's weirdly comic (in more than one sense of the word), and it's enhanced by Ocean's 8 star Paulson as their doctor. Rather than simply a disbelieving foil, she brings depth of conviction that helps shape some of the movie's strongest scenes. There's a welcome return also of support characters from both previous films, grounding this one in a satisfyingly dark and mysterious universe, and developing the theme - modern mythology and its roots in something more mundane - that the director introduced long ago in Unbreakable.
Shyamalan is clearly in love with his storytelling ideas; he relishes the opportunity to draw strands together while expanding the whole, even if he risks stretching audience credibility too far. His other abiding flaw is a painstaking quality that slows the narrative to a crawl at times, one almost stubbornly at odds with other films in the same genre. Fortunately the brooding visuals always provide interest - accentuating performance quirks and delivering some stand-out moments of drama. Add to that superb shot composition and use of colour. And West Dylan Thordson's score is mesmerising.
It all makes for a darkly beautiful trilogy-closer, one that you'll either dismiss ultimately as nonsense, or embrace all the way to its lunatic end. I went with the latter option. After all, what's the point in disbelief if you can't suspend it?
Gut Reaction: A bit of 'Get a move-on, Night', but more pleasure at the off-kilter imagination on view and all that lovely cross-referencing (aside from one ill-judged director's cameo).
Memorable Moment: Therapy session in the big pink room.
Ed's Verdict: 7/10. Despite its sometimes plodding pace, Glass is a satisfyingly inventive follow-up to its two precursors - with its distinctive new direction, vivid characters and that infuriating, unpredictable Shyamalan factor. I liked it.