UNBREAKABLE (2000) 

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Bruce Willis
Samuel L. Jackson
Robin Wright
Spencer Treat Clark
Joey Perillo
Eamonn Walker
Charlayne Woodard

M. Night Shyamalan




Time: 106 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Mystery/Drama

I have to start this review by saying that those of you who were wowed by Night's first major studio picture THE SIXTH SENSE, may or may not be so impressed with UNBREAKABLE. Night is a unique and impressive storyteller with an amazing visual style, which he proved with SENSE and has carried over to his second mainstream endeavor. The fact that the press has managed to not ruin this film by giving away what it is truly about, clearly shows the respect they have for him as a filmmaker and modern storyteller. It's also because, though the film does have a somewhat surprise ending, it's not the same kind of visceral shock as in SIXTH SENSE. I know that if people knew what the main focus of the story was, they probably would consider it hokey and unbelievable and therefore not worth their time.

UNBREAKABLE is first class, solid storytelling from start to finish. I may not have liked where it ended up, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't have gone there. The fact that the trailer tells you almost nothing about the film is a very good thing. Night needs you to be intrigued and interested in his mystery without having any preconceived notions about what the mystery will be unravelled to be. He has a great visual style and way with actors that allows him to create completely different worlds and for me that's more than worth the price of admission. There aren't many films out there that use the medium to its' fullest and I have a feeling Night's work will be interesting for years to come. At least that's my hope.

Now about the story. I'm going to try to intrigue you without giving away too much about the secret driving this movie. It's not about dead people, nor is the mystery anything as dramatic as all that. UNBREAKABLE is a film that needs time to unravel and the pacing and direction are completely different from SIXTH, though the feeling is just as dark. Bruce Willis plays David Dunn, a security guard whose marriage is falling apart and who feels his life is going nowhere. That is until he becomes the sole survivor of a major train wreck. What's strange isn't that he survives, it's that he's completely unharmed. How could that be? It's this notion that drives the rest of the film as David sets out on a mission of self-discovery, aided by his 12-year-old son Joseph (Clark) and an African American, comic book collector named Elijah (Jackson). It's Elijah who pushes David to figure out who or what he really is. Mainly, because he believes they're cut from the same cloth, only from different ends. It seems David is "unbreakable", whereas Elijah's body is as easy to break as glass.

"It's hard for many people to believe that there are extraordinary things inside themselves, as well as others. I hope you can keep an open mind."

That's all I'm going to say since I don't want to ruin the experience. If you liked the way Night told his story in the SIXTH SENSE you'll most likely enjoy UNBREAKABLE. The films are on opposite sides of the spectrum, but they are clearly stories told by the same person. This film is much more introspective and doesn't have the "jump out of your seat" moments that made SIXTH so much fun(?). Their are a couple of scenes that will have you squirming and uncomfortable, but not for the same reasons. UNBREAKABLE is a film enjoyed more with the mind than with the heart, which is why I think I ultimately was amazed by it. I went along for the ride because I wanted to see where the film was going to take me, but I didn't really connect on an emotional level with any of the characters. Sure, I wanted Bruce to survive and was happy to see his family being restored and him finding his life's purpose, but it just wasn't enough. The audience just doesn't have any real emotional investment in these characters and I for one need that to complete a perfect film package.

Despite that, I'm incredibly impressed that Night could create another wonderfully interesting cinema world in so short a time. This is a quiet picture that forces you to really think while you're watching and for days afterwards. The acting is also amazingly subdued. There's not a great amount of dialogue. However, what there is, is brutally honest and the actors more than make up for lack of lines with body language so evocative you feel like you're inside their skin. Willis and Jackson play wonderfully off one another in a much better use of their talents than their pairing in DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE. They couldn't be more divergent in looks or acting style and that's exactly why they're both so perfectly cast here. Robin Wright and Spencer Treat Clark are also very good as Willis' family. They both just need some nibble of hope to hold onto, to make them want to go on living. She wants a husband she can love again and the boy wants a father he can look up to. Their performances give the film depth and balance.

I really enjoyed this latest tale told by Night, but I fear this is not a movie that will be liked by many. In the end, it's about less than you think and that might disappoint. If you like loud movies that come at you a mile a minute, you will definitely not like UNBREAKABLE. This film is so quiet I could hear the people breathing around me. Is it great cinema? I think so, but that's not what most of us go to the movies to see. I think it's entertaining as well as being intellectual, but if that's what America was looking for the Farrelly brothers wouldn't be millionaires. If you like movies that broaden your mind and make you think, you'll like UNBREAKABLE. Otherwise, you might want to go see THE GRINCH for a second time.

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