- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Buena Vista
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
n 1999, M. Night Shyamalan took Hollywood by storm with the supernatural thriller “The Sixth Sense,” but over the course of the past decade, the writer/director has slowly fallen out of favor with many of the same critics who once hailed him as the next Alfred Hitchcock. True, he’s not quite the master of suspense that everyone hoped he would be, but Shyamalan isn’t a one-hit wonder either. While his four other films failed to enjoy the same success as “The Sixth Sense,” you’d be crazy to discount them simply because of their smaller fanbases; namely his 2000 effort “Unbreakable,” Shyamalan’s most underrated and (arguably) best film to date.
Bruce Willis returns for a second go-around with Shyamalan as David Dunn, an ordinary man leading an ordinary life. He spends his days working as a campus security guard and his nights sleeping with his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) due to an impending separation from his wife (Robin Wright Penn). Of course, David isn’t as ordinary as he thinks. When he emerges as the sole survivor of a tragic train wreck, he catches the attention of Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), the owner of a comic art gallery with an interesting theory about David’s seemingly invincible body. The victim of a rare genetic disease that makes his bones susceptible to easy fractures (the kids call him Mr. Glass), Elijah believes that David is his polar opposite, and thus somewhat of a superhuman. Though skeptical at first, a series of chance events leads David to believe that Elijah may be right, ultimately forcing him to reconsider his true purpose in life.
Having already formed an excellent onscreen relationship with one another while working on “Die Hard: With a Vengeance,” the chemistry between Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson is still aglow. Willis (who can partially credit his comeback to Shyamalan) plays the straight guy this time around, while Jackson gets to have a little more fun as the eccentric Elijah Price. Sporting a Frederick Douglass hairdo and an icy glare, Jackson actually gets to act for a change, and it’s refreshing to see that he’s just as entertaining when he’s not playing a wild caricature of himself.
Of course, when you’re dealing with a film by Shyamalan, the performances are never really the focus of criticism, but rather the stories surrounding them. That is, unless Shyamalan has cast himself in a key role (see: “Lady in the Water”), in which case it begs to become the main focus. Thankfully, “Unbreakable” isn’t quite as preposterous as some of his other films, and the director only makes a cameo appearance. Though that doesn’t leave much room for one of Shyamalan’s patented twist endings, the conclusion that does appear is actually quite fitting when viewed in terms of its comic book influences. The inclusion of lame, overlapping texts detailing what happens to the characters following the final confrontation, however, is completely unnecessary. If “Unbreakable” was truly conceived as a potential trilogy, then wouldn’t it make sense to leave things open-ended? It would seem so, but even if Shyamalan wanted a more final ending, he could have easily tied up any loose ends with a few extra scenes.
While the premise behind “Unbreakable” is just as borderline crazy as his other projects, there’s also something very real about it that makes it stand out from the pack. Though it’s a superhero movie at heart, the film is 95 percent psychological drama, focusing on David’s journey to understanding the possibility of even having superpowers instead of on how he might use them. Many have pointed to Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy as the ultimate moviegoer’s guide to a superhero’s psyche, but they’ve clearly never seen “Unbreakable.” This isn’t just one of the most unconventional superhero movies you’ll ever see – it’s one of the best.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Following in the disappointing tradition of porting bonus features from past DVDs to their HD counterparts, the Blu-ray release of “Unbreakable” contains the very same extras from the two-disc Vista Series edition. A 14-minute making-of featurette leads the pack, and while it’s mostly just an EPK-styled promo with interviews from the cast and crew, Shyamalan does briefly discuss his inspiration for making an entire film from a first act. Also included are 20-odd minutes of deleted scenes, an interesting featurette on the history of comics (“Comic Books and Superheroes”), a multi-angle featurette that compares the original storyboards to the final product (“The Train Station Sequence”), and Shyamalan’s very first short film.