Before M. Night Shyamalan turned to the bad he made rather engrossing films. Unbreakable saw him team up with Bruce Willis once again and confirmed the promise he’d shown in his brilliant 1999 film The Sixth Sense.
Willis stars as a security attendant for a university stadium who slowly discovers that he is the titular unbreakable being. Being the sole survivor in a train derailment, he is approached by the enigmatic Elijah Price, a role eerily perfected by Samuel L. Jackson. Having suffered from a rare form of brittle bone disease since he was born, Elijah believes Willis’s David Dunn to be his polar opposite, to be unbreakable whilst he suffers agonisingly from his own fragility.
Unbreakable is, to all intents and purposes, a super hero movie. All the ingredients are present after all – the caped hero, the evil nemesis, the sheeting rain – but all of them are diluted and given dark undertones that come together to give the film a feeling of being more of a thriller than bright gauzy hero flick. You wont be seeing Willis don red underpants over his tights here, after all. Amidst the recent furore of superhero films with a twist (we look here to Kick Ass in particular), Unbreakable offers relief in its dark retelling of the hugely popular superhero genre.
Jackson’s glass man is tangibly sinister and provides the film with enough darkness for it to never fully give in to its comic book theme. The bitterness he holds against the world juxtaposes the wonder David’s son Joseph finds in their predicament and makes for thrilling viewing. As Joseph watches his father steadily lift an increasing number of weights his amazement is palpable whilst the fragile relationship held between David and his wife adds a refreshing romantic element to the film.
For all of its power, Unbreakable is by no means flawless. Sometimes you find yourself wishing David would be a little more open to the idea of his powers whilst not enough time is given to the ending; we’re shown that he can suddenly read the future and the exciting finale is over before it ever really began.
Shyamalan’s trademark twist is present but, thanks to The Sixth Sense, you might just be waiting for it throughout. Its sinister portrayal of the life of an anti-superhero makes for an interesting watch that reminds you the director wasn’t always headed for the razzies.
Best performance: Samuel L. Jackson.
Watch this if you liked: The Sixth Sense, Signs, Kick Ass.