Unbreakable (2000) / Thriller-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements including violence, and a crude sexual reference
Running Time: 106 min.
Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright, Spencer Treat Clark, Charles Does
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan
Review published December 14, 2000
M. Night Shyamalan, the heralded director of The Sixth Sense, follows up his mega-blockbuster with a very subdued but more profound thriller in Unbreakable. Although I admit that liked The Sixth Sense, I also must admit that I don't feel it's as great a film as others have claimed, so my expectations may have been much lower than others may have been in Shyamalan latest endeavor.
Shyamalan casts Bruce Willis (The Kid, The Story of Us) in the lead once again, and shows his directorial finesse by keeping Willis from his usual shtick of hamming it up on-screen. Willis plays David Dunn, a security guard in a local university who not only miraculously survives a train crash which kills every other passenger on board, but he emerges without so much as a scratch. Meanwhile, a local comic book aficionado and art collector, Elijah Price (Jackson, Shaft), when hearing of the astonishing event, has a hunch that Dunn may have talents which exceed those of normal human beings, and in fact may be a superhero archetype like those of the classic comics he reads. Unlike Elijah, who suffers from a disease where his bones are brittle like glass, David has never been sick or injured in his entire life to his recollection. David shrugs this off, but Elijah's theories seem ever so hard to disprove.
Like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable keeps us in the dark most of the way only to make things clear as the end draws closer, until a revelation occurs which makes us put all the pieces together. However, Unnreakable's ending is truer to the spirit and plot of the film and not merely a ploy to fool the audience like that of it's predecessor. The film is slow, but is absorbing in its mystery, and when all of the loose ends become tied up later in the movie, it pays off in profound ways.
Trying for a realistic look at what would happen if there really were superheroes among us, it's certainly one of the best superhero films to come out in many a year, and perhaps the most unique. Willis performs well in another low-key role, and Jackson is his usual terrific self as the yang to Willis' yin. There's quite a bit of disbelief to suspend, such as Willis never realizing he's never been sick or injured in his life at 40, or that when he realizes it, it takes weeks when it should take mere seconds for an attempt to be made to disprove Elijah's theories. However, Unbreakable has just enough originality and profundity to make it a deep and unique film that, while it may forever be overshadowed by The Sixth Sense, should solidify Shyamalan's reputation as one of the best auteurs working in Hollywood in the last five years.
©2000 Vince Leo