Revisiting M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘Split’

No one knew that Unbreakable and Split were connected until we saw a familiar face sipping a cup of coffee in a small Philadelphia café at the end of our then unofficial sequel back in 2016. Something you need to know about these films is that they aren’t your typical superhero movies. What would superpowers look like in the real world? In the first of the trilogy, this question is what brings together David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson): two extremely unconventional superheroes.

Since, in my opinion, Unbreakable had a bit of an unsatisfying ending, fans must have been ecstatic after seeing Split to finally get another taste of the peculiar universe.

Opening scene – source: Buena Vista Pictures

Unbreakable starts off with the birth of Elijah Price. He is born with type one osteogenesis imperfecta, an extremely rare disease that makes the affected person’s bones very easy to break. Elijah grows up to be a comic-book and art dealer and he has a thought based on all the comics he has read during his lifetime: that if his bones shatter and he is injured with complete ease, there must be someone “unbreakable” at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Security guard David Dunn is shown taking a train back home from a job interview in New York City, back to his crumbling marriage with wife Audrey (Robin Wright) and his son, Joseph. We learn that David gave up a football career in college due to a car accident he suffered alongside his wife.

David & Elijah – source: Buena Vista Pictures

Suddenly David’s train crashes, killing 131 passengers while he is the only survivor – with absolutely no injuries. He and son run trials to test his strength and agility, learning that he cannot be injured. He uses his “superpower” and extreme strength for good and saves weaker people from troubling situations.

Near the end of the film, David attends an art show at Elijah’s gallery and meets his mother. She explains the difference between the villains who fight against heroes with physical strength vs. intelligence. Elijah brings David to the back of his studio and they shake hands. As their hand’s touch, David goes into a trance and sees Elijah planning multiple acts of terrorism, including David’s train accident.

Elijah, who nicknamed himself “Mr. Glass”, explains that all the things he has done were all part of his plan to find the man who is “unbreakable”. David leaves and it’s interpreted that he had reported Elijah to the police, resulting in him being rightfully convicted of murder and terrorism. He was then admitted to a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane.

Kevin Wendell Crumb – source: Universal Pictures

Split, however, is a little grimmer. The second installment follows Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a disturbed man with a twist: he has 23 identified personalities, also known as dissociation identity disorder or DID. The film starts off with his kidnapping of three girls, including Casey (then-newcomer, Anya-Taylor Joy), who is much more than your typical femme fatale to root for, with the help of flashbacks that show how and why she had to gain her survival skills.

Shyamalan intricately helps the audience have a better understanding of Kevin’s mental state through sessions he has with his psychologist, Dr. Fletcher. She believes his condition is a reflection of the brain’s large amounts of potential for growth and not a disability. Kevin is usually kind to her, rarely showing his darker sides to manipulate her into thinking his illness is regulated.

Anya-Taylor Joy as Casey – source: Universal Pictures

The main question of the film is what does Kevin want with these girls? Will they ever escape? The scariest part of it all is how his multiple personalities communicate with each other – they manipulate and feed off of each other. During the climax of the film, Kevin’s terrifying 24th personality is revealed: The Beast. Casey tries to fight him off and ends up locking herself in a cage, soon finding out that they were being kept in the Philadelphia Zoo.

There must be limits to what a human being can become.

Kevin sees scars and cuts across Casey’s body, a sign of her abuse we saw in the flashbacks throughout the film. He tells her his plans to get rid of the “impure” and “untouched” in the world and those who have never suffered. After considering what she had been through, he declares Casey as “pure” and sets her free.

During an after credits scene in a diner, there is a news report broadcasting on the TV: they say that Kevin’s personalities have earned him the nickname “The Horde”. One person realizes the similarity to a criminal incarcerated 15 years earlier who also had a funny nickname. She tries to think it while the man beside her who appears to be David Dunn, turns to her and says, it was “Mr. Glass”.

A promotional shot from Glass – source: Universal Pictures

Now, that segues us into our third and last film: Glass. This has been a project 19 years in the making, and I am positive it will not disappoint. With a returning all-star cast made up of Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, James McAvoy and Anya-Taylor Joy along with newcomer Sarah Paulson (Ocean’s 8, American Horror Story), whose character we don’t know much about yet, but I’m thinking she will be portraying a psychiatrist/researcher who specializes in criminally insane patients.

Glass will follow David Dunn as he pursues The Beast in a series of events while the intimidating presence of Elijah Price lurks in the shadows. This film remains mostly coated in mystery, following in the footsteps of most of M. Night Shyamalan’s films.

The genius addition of David Dunn at the end of Split was not only a simple, fun hidden Easter egg to hint to fans that these films might have a connection to one another; it was purposely added to set up a major brawl between a hero and two sinister villains.

Theatrical Poster – source: Universal Pictures

Glass is in theaters January 18th, 2019.

 

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