Unbreakable (2000)


Director:  M. Night Shyamalan
Cast:  Bruce WillisSamuel L. JacksonRobin Wright
Plot:  A suspense thriller with supernatural overtones that revolves around a man who learns something extraordinary about himself after a devastating accident.

Genre:  Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi
Awards:  -
Runtime:  106min
Rating:  PG for mature thematic elements including some disturbing violent content, and for a crude sexual reference.

“They say this one has a surprise ending.”

Composer James Newton Howard and writer-director M. Night Shyamalan are a formidable pairing.  In Unbreakable, some of the finest work they have done together are on show.  Howard talks about a singular quality to his music for the film, how it evokes direct imagery and its associative emotions from a film I would describe as a superhero origin movie masquerading as a mystery-drama starring Bruce Willis. 

Willis who plays a security guard at a stadium survives a horrific train wreck unscathed.  Slowly, he finds out his true destiny.  Opposite Willis is Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Mr. Glass, a highly unfortunate man cursed with a fragile body since birth.  Like Jackie Chan, he has broken almost every bone in his body, but he holds the answers to everything, while surprising us in the epilogue in a monologue that gives shocking power to Shyamalan's film.  But that is relative.

The genius of Shyamalan in The Sixth Sense (1999), a film that launched him to super stardom, was sensational to behold.  In Unbreakable, he opts for something to match the audacity of his debut feature... and to some extent it works. 

His trademark twist endings have been a double-edged sword, but the deliberate craft of this once brilliant filmmaker is a joy to behold - from the long takes to affecting flashbacks to the marriage of sight and sound. 

Unbreakable is about the discovery of oneself, and Shyamalan shrewdly focuses on Willis' character as key to not only the re-integration of his family, but also the promise of being a hero for humanity.  In this regard, the film works on two levels: an intimate drama and a superhero movie. 

And on both levels, we see a performative reconciliation from Willis' character with himself and also his loved ones, in particular his encounter with the 'Orange Man', and his actions with his wife and kid thereafter.

Unbreakable contains one extraordinary long take shot outside of a window with the curtains being blown strategically to reveal Willis' character cautiously exploring a room in a mysterious house.  Till date, it remains to be in my opinion the single greatest example of Shyamalan's deliberate direction and pacing.  His handling of suspense in this shot is phenomenal. 

Unbreakable is underrated or overrated, depending on where you are coming from, but it remains to be Shyamalan's most intriguing work to date.

Verdict:  An origin superhero movie masquerading as a small-town drama that remains to be Shyamalan's most intriguing picture to date.


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