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.
- Creates and sustains a dower and gritty mood
- A unique approach to a heroic origin story
- Jackson makes Elijah work with his intense performance
- 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)
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