Sunday, September 27, 2009

Unbreakable (2000)

TOP 100 FILMS: #73

The only survivor of a horrific train accident, David Dunn (Bruce Willis) finds himself haunted by his fate, and the strange fact that he doesn't have a single scar on him. When Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) enters David's life, David begins to struggle with his ever dwindling marriage, and the notion that he may in fact be superhuman.

When it comes to superhero movies I have always preferred the setup and the first true mission as opposed to the generally action laded experienced sequences. Unbreakable is a film dedicated entirely to the understanding, studying, and examination of a man, who has avoided this idea his entire life. Willis is perfect as Dunn, an extremely flawed man who may just be a superhero. Dunn is not a good husband, not emotionally connected with those around him, even his son, and is unhappy in his job as a sports security member at a local college. Before Shyamalan went Hollywood this is the type of film he was best at, small deep character studies with massive amounts of in screen hidden gems you could watch 15 times to see (such as the use of color to identify characters).

Unbreakable is slow, methodical, and it examines our character David in two forms. One is the way in which is struggles to decide if he is in fact this hero, and at the same time we're given the counter-point person, the mysterious Elijah. Elijah, played masterfully weird by Jackson, suffers from brittle bone diseases, is easily breakable, and has sought out his entire life to find someone like David. The two central characters are backed by Robin Wright Penn as David's wife, and Spencer Treat Clark as David's son. Both find themselves on the outside looking in, the wife struggling to find a connection with David like they once had, and the son who seeks to make a hero out of his father, who he looks up to, at great costs.

Emotionally distant, Unbreakable makes it hard to really get into these characters, and by the oddest turn of fate we're observers to them, we're distant from their world... we're them. We observe them, we follow them, and because of that shared disconnection we feel for them. Willis' performance allows us in, and lets us really feel what this character is feeling (though his best scene was left on the dvd deleted selection), and Jackson leaves us curious, obsessed with figuring out the films mystery.

What really makes it work though, is that sense of realism. David doesn't fly, run through houses, there's no super villain shooting out electricity, the movie takes place in our world. We feel a connection to it, a sense of realism to this film, and as such the characters' up and down quest connects with us. We feel as if this could happen to any human, and yet acknowledge that a superhuman transformation is occurring. Even the ending, which is often widely bashed, I find to be poetically brilliant. Nothing over the top, nothing elongated or dragged out, just the final revelation of these characters. For all of those reasons I absolutely love this film, I have at times become obsessed with it, and find in it a certain cinematic and story telling beauty lost in your main stream superhero film.

A silent, powerful thriller and character examination, M. Night Shyamalan may not have impressed everyone, but he left a truly lasting impression on me with his 2000 films Unbreakble.

3 better thoughts:

Lemmy Caution said...

Couldn't agree more. A fantastic film. I'm always surprised at the number of people that aren't familiar with it.

In my opinion, it is the best film that M. Night has ever put together.

Quite frankly, his last 3 or 4 movies have been almost unbearably's hard to believ he went from Unbreakable to such lesser boring films.

That Show Sucks said...

Your comments are the exact opposite of how I feel about M. Night and Unbreakable. I think his recent films are great. Unbreakable had a "big" cast but was a let-down for me. I always expected something more exciting to happen but it never did. It was one of the movies I was disappointed going to the theater and spending my money on.

free movie download said...

Its a good movie. I have even bought a DVD to gift that to my friend too. Its a must watch movie.

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