Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn, Spencer Treat Clark
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements including some disturbing violent content, and for a crude sexual reference
Running Time: 106
Date: 11/14/2000

Unbreakable (2000)

3 Stars (out of 4)

I'm Super, Thanks for Asking

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Bruce Willis teams up with writer/director M. Night Shyamalan once again for this supernatural follow-up their The Sixth Sense (1999). They've got a hell of a hole to climb out of. No matter what they deliver, it's going to be compared, most likely unfavorably, to that enormous critical and commercial success. I wish I could say Unbreakable is better, but I can't. I can say that it is indeed quite good and well worth seeing.

Unbreakable tells the story of a Philadelphia security guard, David Dunn, who is the only survivor a disastrous train wreck. He is contacted by a mysterious man named Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson) who runs a high-class comic book art store. Elijah, who suffers a rare disease making his bones extremely brittle, tries to convince David that he cannot be hurt. David begins to think back on his life and realizes that he's never been sick or hurt in any way. (He was once a promising football star who seemed unstoppable.)

To say any more than this would ruin it. Like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable ends with a whammy, but it's not nearly as spine-chilling as the former's. I can say that Shyamalan has already established his own personal stamp for his films. He has a quiet, slow-moving widescreen frame, subtly dipped in moody colors, and his pacing is perfect. He indulges in little pranks now and again; several images in Unbreakable appear upside-down. The first time we see Willis on the train, we're peering at him through a crack in the seats in front of him. The camera moves back and forth, catching snippets of his conversation with a woman.

Shyamalan's screenwriting has improved as well. David is estranged from his wife (Robin Wright Penn). They live in the same house, but in separate rooms. The movie keeps us in the dark on this fact until midway through. She could be anyone, a sister, a babysitter. This is a small detail, and perhaps not important to the plot, but I respect movies that don't unload all their information on us at once.

In some ways, Unbreakable is more admirable than The Sixth Sense, because Shyamalan was given complete freedom to do as he pleased. While The Sixth Sense was made for audiences, Unbreakable seems to be made more for himself. It's a more open-hearted gift from him to us. There's no way Unbreakable will make anywhere near the cash that The Sixth Sense did, but those of us who see it will get to know Shyamalan a little bit better.

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