Unbreakable (2000) Review

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains medium level violence.
Cast:
Bruce Willis as David Dunn
Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price/Mr. Glass
Robin Wright as Audrey Dunn
Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph Dunn
Charlayne Woodard as Mrs. Price
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

A security guard (Bruce Willis), having been the sole survivor of a high-fatality train crash, finds himself at the centre of a mysterious theory that explains his consistent physical good fortune. When news of his survival is made public, a man whose own body is excessively weak (Samuel L. Jackson) tracks him down in an attempt to explain his unique unbreakable nature.

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I only watched Unbreakable once but with director M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film Glass coming out soon, a movie tying together this movie and his other movie Split in the same universe, I decided to check out Unbreakable again. At the time of its release, Unbreakable was considered to be a disappointment compared to director Shyamalan’s previous film, The Sixth Sense (which got him noticed as a director). Nowadays its considered one of his all time best movies and maybe even his best, and for very good reason.

Unbreakable was really ahead of its time, especially when you consider the state of superhero movies in the lead up to its release. While the Christopher Reeve Superman movies and the Michael Keaton Batman movies existed, the rest of the comic book movies leading up to 2000 were films like Batman and Robin and Spawn. This is a more realistic take about comic book superheroes. Had this been released around 2005-2008, this would’ve been acclaimed as a masterpiece and a different take on superheroes. However, it was released at a time when comic book movies were still finding its way, so people really didn’t understand or catch onto this movie as fast. M. Night Shyamalan plays with comic books, it’s clear even from this that he has a deep knowledge about comic books and applies some of the tropes and aspects into the lore in this movie. Despite some of the larger than life concepts, it understands that it’s a smaller movie, based in reality. It’s essentially a story about Superman realising that he’s a superhero but they make it as grounded as possible. There is also a twist at the end, as typical of Shyamalan, and it really works (won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen Unbreakable yet). In terms of problems with the movie, I guess there are moments that are a little drawn out and lost my interest a little bit, mainly some conversations, but there’s only a few of those moments.

Bruce Willis’s performance here as the lead character of David Dunn is one of his best, if not his best. It’s a very subdued performance, it’s not showy at all but you can clearly see his emotions come across and he’s very convincing in his arc. Samuel L. Jackson also gives one of his best performances as Elijah Price, someone who is determined to prove that David is a superhero of sorts. Jackson is very subdued here compared to his other characters and he’s actually quite convincing in the role. Despite some of the outlandish things that his character claims, the way Jackson delivers them actually seems believable. The supporting actors were also good, with Robin Wright and Spencer Treat Clark as David Dunn’s mother and son serving the story quite well.

M. Night Shyamalan knows what he’s doing behind the camera here. The cinematography was great, on a rewatch I really noticed that he used a lot of long takes with small movements or zooms, especially during conversations. I’m not sure why he did that but it just felt right. Shyamalan once again seems very familiar with comic books and it’s very apparent in his direction. Whether that be the clear use of colour like green for David Dunn and purple with Elijah Price, the way some things are framed to seem like something straight out of a comic book, or other things along that line. James Newton Howard’s iconic score here is absolutely incredible and added so much to the movie. As fantastic as Unbreakable is, I’m not even sure that it would’ve reached this level of greatness without it, that’s how much it elevated the movie.

Unbreakable for me is without a doubt Shyamalan’s best movie yet, his writing and direction on top of the great performances (especially form Willis and Jackson) were outstanding and really works. With the boom of comic book movies nowadays ever since really 2008, Unbreakable has aged incredibly well. Early buzz surrounding Glass has been divisive but I’m on board with whatever Shyamalan has in mind for the conclusion of this story.

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