Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Running Time: 1:46
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements
including some disturbing violent content, & for a crude sexual reference.

To me, Unbreakable was the one movie I wanted to see this year. After the unbelievable success of The 6th Sense I had to see what director M. Night Shyamalan could do as a follow up. With Unbreakable he has crafted a very deliberate, slow moving yet intense and gripping story that will leave you both shaking your head in wonderment and amazement.

Bruce Willis stars as David Dunn, a security guard at a local football stadium. One day, on a train ride back to his Philadelphia home from New York City, his train crashes. All aboard die, except for him. And on top of that, he doesn't suffer one broken bone, or even one small scratch. He is approached by a strange man named Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), who offers him a strange explanation. He asks David if he ever remembers having gotten sick once in his life. Has he ever been injured? David's son believes in Elijah. David and his wife (Robin Wright Penn) can not bring themselves to believe such an out of this world possibility. But as time moves along, David learns more and more about himself, and is forced to accept he may be what Elijah says he is.

Unlike The 6th Sense, the 'secret' isn't something that comes in the last 5 minutes. Well, the big secret anyway. Up front David is told he may be someone special, someone who may be invincible. Elijah has a disease where his bones easily break. So in his youth, all he could really do is read comics. From his readings, he thinks that comics are a way for people to tell their history. He doesn't believe that comics are just mindless entertainment, but things that people really saw in their own lives, and the only way for them to write it down on paper. He also thinks that if there are people like him in the world, people who are easily hurt, then there must be people who are the exact opposite. Unbreakable. So for years he has scoured the papers and news reports, looking for that one phrase. There has been an accident. There is only one survivor. When he finds David, he thinks he has found his opposite. But he needs some proof, and David, although skeptical at first, gives him that proof.

This movie was very slow and deliberate. Every scene, every shot was drawn out and purposeful. The direction was simple, but that in itself made it very different. The opening scene where David is talking to a girl on the train was just a camera moving back and forth from between the seats to each person. No cuts, no music, just two people having a conversation. But the way it was shot was very simple and yet made the scene more dramatic than maybe it should have been. The entire movie was shot that way. When David and Elijah are standing at the stadium talking, the camera starts close on them, but slowly, almost imperceptibly, keeps moving backwards until all you see is them in silhouette. It's a moment you don't really understand until the very end of the movie. Shyamalan has a lot of scenes where you don't really understand why it looks the way it does, or why something happens, until the conclusion. Much like The 6th Sense, you feel the need to go back and watch the movie again to see if everything really fits.

The performances from Willis and Jackson are impeccable. And I give special credit to Jackson. Whereas I was able to see David's slow transformation in the film, I didn't even realize Elijah went through a similar transition through the movie, until the very end. Both played their roles very low-key and laid back, but there was still a powerful feeling from them when they were on-screen. The scene between David, his wife and his kid with the gun, was one of the most powerful scenes in the film and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. And yet, as I said earlier, the entire movie was directed very simply. The sets were dark and brooding, the music was used to bolster a scene, and not to overpower it. Everything was done deliberately and with a specific purpose, even if you didn't realize it at the time.

The only downside to me was the ending. I think the problem Shyamalan is going to have from here on out when he makes this type of movie, is people are going to be expecting a 'trick' ending. So if there is an ending that either doesn't have a 'trick' ending, or there is a 'trick' ending that you saw coming, or there is a 'trick' ending you didn't see coming and you don't like it, you may leave the movie feeling unsatisfied. I won't tell you how the movie ends, but at first I didn't really understand it. But as I thought about it more and more, it made sense, even if it didn't beat you over the head.

So I guess the big question is going to end up being, is Unbreakable better than The 6th Sense? And the answer is, it's not better, and it's not worse. I think Unbreakable shows a growth in M. Night Shyamalan's directing and story telling ability, but it doesn't pack the same commercial wallop. It's more of a thinking movie, than a special ending amazement movie. But overall, it is a wonderfully acted and directed movie that you need to see for yourself.

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reviewed 11/26/00

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