Films

Unbreakable

UK release date: Mar 26 2008


cast list

Bruce Willis
Samuel L Jackson
Robin Wright Penn


directed by
M Night Shyamalan

Unbreakable is the new other-worldly thriller from M Night Shyamalan, the writer/director wunderkind of 1999’s The Sixth Sense. The story centers on a Philadelphia security guard named David Dunn (Bruce Willis). Dunn is the sole survivor of a deadly train crash that kills everyone who was on board, except of course, him. What is even more peculiar about this is that Dunn doesn’t have even a scratch on him.

A few days later, David finds a note on his car’s windshield that simply asks, “How many days in your life have you been sick?” When David comes to the realization that the answer is none, his curiosity on who sent the note leads him to a comic book art gallery dealer named Elijah Price (Samuel L Jackson), who may have the answer behind Dunn’s possible other-worldly ability to survive such events as the train wreck, his inability to get sick and what these may all mean to David’s true purpose on this planet.

From reading the above, you may think that Unbreakable has the same potential as The Sixth Sense to be something unique and original. To a certain degree, it does. For the first two-thirds of the film, the viewer is drawn into what is going to happen to these characters, wondering what is going to happen and where will it all ends up. As with Sense, M Night Shymalan creates just enough of an aura of dread to give us a feeling of creepiness without depressing us. He does a nice job setting up several intense moments, evoking Hitchcock and even Michael Mann’s vastly underrated 1986 classic Manhunter.

Unfortunately, we then come to the third act with its big “revelation” that has to be one of the worst closing acts of any motion picture I have seen all year. I will not tell you what it is or what happens after (I believe in spoiler-free reviewing) we find out David’s true purpose in life, but it rings so hollow that you would be sitting scratching your head saying “Huh?” after the house lights come up if you were not laughing your ass off at the film’s conclusion. It was almost as if Shymalan had the monkey who banged on the word processor for Battlefield Earth step in to finish the script while he counted his millions from The Sixth Sense.

As for the cast, Willis and Jackson are decent in their roles, but since the characters lack the emotional punch needed for the viewer to connect, their performances become almost stillborn. Robin Wright-Penn, whom we don’t see enough of in movies these days, is given a nothing role as David’s estranged wife, Audrey. Spencer Treat Clark (Gladiator) is passable but hardly memorable as their son.

What begins as an atmospheric and intriguing thriller falls completely apart in its crucial third act, leaving the viewer feeling like they have been slapped in the face. The Sixth Sense came as a complete surprise to everyone. It was spooky, at times quite scary but most of all it was smartly written and emotionally moving. With Unbreakable, M Night Shyamalan tried to get lightning to strike twice by attempting to make a similar movie, only without any of the heart or originality of his surprise 1999 hit. Atmosphere is important, but so is a decent script.



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