Plot: A man learns something extraordinary about himself after a devastating accident.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Released: December 2000
I remember a time when Shyamalan was the darling of Hollywood, that was until Lady in the Water started a run of 10 shockers, luckily for us Unbreakable not only came before this point but also proved to be the inspiration for Split and Glass. two films that have seemingly put this once adored director back on track.
No one would say that Willis is a great of an actor, merely an entertaining one who no-longer cares about the quality of the movies he features in. But Shyamalan has seemingly developed a knack for getting a tune out of this veteran action star. In The Sixth Sense, he is a delight and in Unbreakable he is electric as possible superhero security guard David Dunn.
I can say the same for Samuel L. Jackson. Over his long career, I have known him to phone a few performances in, but here isn’t the case, absolutely killing it as Elijah Price. I’ll stay away from spoilers, but it’s safe to say that the way they develop his character and the manner in which he brings Elijah to life, there are very few actors couldn’t imagine doing a better job.
For me, what made Unbreakable such a treat was the absorbing interactions between Dunn and Price. Each exchange is truly captivating and helps develop both characters massively. Surviving a major accident has made Dunn re-evaluate his life, his strained marriage, and feeling that something is missing in his life. While Price’s backstory is explored in an entertaining manner, his reason for using comic books to escape his difficult and painful existence and the effect this has on his mind and his body.
These days he might be better known for increasingly improbable twists and stupid character decisions, but with Unbreakable, Shyamalan’s skill as a director shines through, taking a relatively simple plot and making it entertaining with slowly increasing tension straight out of the Hitchcock handbook. This is best shown in the harrowing sequence when Elijah is required to descend a set of stairs, knowing one fall would lead to multiple broken bones.
These days we’re used to all forms of superhero movies coming out of both Marvel and DC studios, along with films that attempt to deconstruct the genre. But at the time of Unbreakable’s release, this was a relatively new concept. My only real complaint with the film is the ending, which I found a little underwhelming given all the wonderful buildup they had worked so hard to create. I can’t help but feel the film could have benefitted from an with an extra 10/15 minutes devoted to David Dunn’s character arc rather than ending abruptly once the twist is revealed and the time jump to the events of Glass.
Moreover, although, Shyamalan tried his hardest to fill his film with interesting and almost Hitchcockian elements, including the restrained set pieces that Hitchcock long perfected. Perhaps the end product feels a tad polished and presented more than a couple of events that felt all too convenient. Luckily this doesn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the movie, which is extremely well-directed, acted and filmed.