Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Unbreakable (2000)

For some reason it seems like I’ve been revisiting some of M. Night Shyamalan’s films lately. The man has a great visual style, and even something as uneven as The Village is worth checking out. I last saw Unbreakable when it first came out on DVD back in the day. The buzz on this film was pretty tame, most folks were disappointed with it after being so impressed with The Sixth Sense. I admit I was in the same boat. But I noticed that many folks are now putting this film on their list of best Shyamalan films. Did I miss something?

David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is the only survivor of a horrendous train accident. Survivor is really putting it nicely – he is completely uninjured by the disaster. While he tries to cope with this, he comes in contact with an eccentric comic book art enthusiast named Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson). Elijah seems to think that David survived the train wreck for a reason, a very special destiny.

At first David dismisses Elijah’s theory as ranting by an emotionally unstable man. But additional events occur that seem to confirm Elijah’s theory. At the same time David is attempting to reconnect with his estranged wife Audrey (Robin Wright) and his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark). David begins to fear for him family’s safety when it becomes obvious that Elijah will stop at nothing to prove that David is Unbreakable.

Good Points:
  • Creates and sustains a dower and gritty mood
  • A unique approach to a heroic origin story
  • Jackson makes Elijah work with his intense performance

Bad Points:
  • Relentlessly dreary and dower
  • Attempts a slow boil, but ends up just feeling slow
  • The ending feels anticlimactic

I want to like Unbreakable more than I can. I appreciate the approach to the story and the cleverness of the concept. I like the attempt to create a gritty mood and atmosphere to the whole thing. But that ends up being my real problem. While Willis’ low-key performance worked well in The Sixth Sense I find his performance in Unbreakable to border on lifeless. The movie just mopes for its 106 minutes. Jackson does inject some life into the film and helps it along. In the end I appreciate the film for what it attempts, but don’t find myself really liking it. However, it offers a glimpse into the approach for the grim and gritty Batman Begins and Man of Steel.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 4
Acting: 4
Script: 4
Music: 3
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 3
Total:  3

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. I enjoyed Unbreakable when I first saw it, but haven't revisited it since then. For me, it has a similar twist at the end of the film, like The Sixth Sense, which is fine, but once the reveal has been sprung all that came before seems to be a setup, and I'm not a huge fan of those types of films unless they are done really well or offer other ambiguities which leaves you wondering. (Man, that was a loooong sentence.)

    But yeah, it does have an interesting indie mood or vibe to it, and I'm always curious as to what Shyamalan is doing.

    1. Yeah I think Shyamalan had a lot of really good concepts at the core of most of his films. I like his visual style a lot, and I think if he worked with a really great screenwriter, he could create one hell of a movie. But "Unbreakable" was just to morose for me. I think I'm just experiencing grim and gritty fatigue. Maybe if I revisit it in another few years, I'll feel differently. :)

  2. The proposition a person on one tail end of a bell curve is balanced by someone on the opposite tail of the curve isn't so very unreasonable. Elijah thereby gives a mythic character to their otherwise mundane lives.I liked this film, but it did need more caffeine. Had I watched it is the small hours of the morning (a not uncommon viewing time for me) I might have nodded off.