USA, 2000. Rated PG-13. 106 minutes.

Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, Eamonn Walker, Leslie Stefanson, Johnny Hiram, James Handy, Elizabeth Lawrence
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Music: James Newton Howard
Cinematographer: Eduardo Serra
Producers: Barry Mendel, Sam Mercer, M. Night Shyamalan
Director: M. Night Shyamalan


Grade: B+ Review by Kris Campbell

I f you liked The Sixth Sense, you'll love Unbreakable!!! Okay, so it's not the most original lead, but this isn't the most original movie. To put it mildly, M. Night Shyamalan did not elect for a radical departure in his second film. Same lead actor paired with precocious youngster, same location, same subdued style, same use of a "gotcha" ending that forces the viewer to revisit the story through the prism of a single, hopefully unanticipated, twist. But hey, so what–it's still a very entertaining film by a clearly talented storyteller, and much better than most of what came out in 2000.

The Big Picture
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For those who haven't seen the film, the fewer plot lines divulged the better (lazy writer's way of escaping burdensome plot summary). The key facts are as follows: Bruce Willis plays David Dunn, a Philadelphia security guard quietly suffering through the early stages of separation from his wife, Audrey (Robin Wright Penn). The other member of the dissolving family is worshipful son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark, subbing for Haley Joel Osment), who helps guide David to his discovery of his true self. The wheels are put in motion by David's sole-survivorship of a gruesome train wreck, after which he is tracked down by Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a comic-book afficionado awaiting the real-life appearance of a demi-super hero. Bruce WillisWhile Elijah is as physically frail as David is strong, he is by far the more resilient of the two, and through his dogged determination he begins to make a believer of David that he may in fact be the incarnation of said hero.

Strange to say for a movie with a surprise plot twist, but aside from these basics the details don't matter all that much. As with The Sixth Sense, the film's high points are its tone and style; if you have to wait until the end to decide whether you like it not, you probably didn't. Put another way, while I didn't anticipate the ending and a friend did, we both enjoyed the movie about the same. The various plot minutiae–largely centered around comic books and their purported larger significance–are just that: minutiae that don't meaningfully add to or subtract from the value of the film. Personally, I was happy to let them wash over me and enjoy the cinematography along with my popcorn.

It will be interesting to see what Shyamalan does next. Given the mixed reaction to Unbreakable, he will almost certainly depart next time around from what could be considered a "formula" for his first two films. Hopefully he won't throw the (style) baby out with the (script) bath water.

Review © January 2001 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2000 Touchstone Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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