Manoj Night Shyamalan burst on to the Hollywood Blockbusters scene with his critically acclaimed The Sixth Sense. Now this was one movie which immediately catapulted the relatively unknown young Haley Joel Osmont into the A-list of child artistes in Hollywood with his famous lines “I see dead people”. This was one movie which eventually turned out to be the ultimate definition of M Night Shyamalan’s style of movie-making, namely, movies with contemporary supernatural plots that usually have a twist right at the end. Surprisingly enough Unbreakable is one of Shyamalan’s movies which probably didn’t quite get the box-office success it deserved. One probably reason in my opinion is because it dealt with a reasonably niche plot outline, that of comic-book superheroes in particular and the comic-book genre in general, which not too many adults find interesting. In any case, this movie probably remains my second best M Night Shyamalan movie of all time, just behind The Sixth Sense.
As is the norm with most Shyamalan movies, the movie itself begins quietly with the protagonist going through the daily motions in his life. In this case, David Dunn (played by a Shyamalan favorite, Bruce Willis) travelling back home by train. We learn that Dunn’s is plagued by a mid-life crisis where his marriage has all but fallen apart, and he probably will not get to see his son again. More flashbacks reveal that he had given up a promising football career to marry his love Audrey (played very subtly by Robin Wright Penn of Forrest Gump fame). In any case, the train that Dunn is travelling back on meets with a horrible accident and Dunn turns out to be the only survivor of the train wreck which takes 132 lives.
While Dunn is struggling to digest the fact that he is probably the only lucky passenger on the train, he is contacted by Elijah Price (Samuel L Jackson in one of his memorable roles). Now Elijah himself suffers from Type I Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a rare bone disease which makes his bones extremely brittle and easy to break. Due to his condition, Elijah develops a liking to comic books which leads him to believe that if someone like him could exist in this world, then there had to be someone else who was his exact opposite at the other end of the spectrum.
When Elijah hears about Dunn being the only survivor of the train wreck, he contacts him and tells him of his theory. Upon being constantly hounded by Elijah with this theory, Dunn tries to test himself and his strength. The results are reasonably surprising, to say the least. Elijah then gives more suggestions and opportunities to Dunn to prove his theory and all of these make up for some of the most interesting scenes in the movie itself.
This leads to a particular sequence in the movie where Dunn, using his supposedly ‘superhero powers’ manages to rescue a family which was being held hostage by a sadistic janitor. Although he does so, Dunn is scared to confront his wife with the truth, for the fear of ruining his marriage permanently. However, he does let his son in on his little secret.
When Dunn goes over to Elijah to tell him of this incident, he discovers something that pretty much forms the crux of this entire movie. And if I let out this one little secret, I am more than sure that I will end up spoiling this movie for you. So please do go ahead and watch this movie.
What works for me in this movie are the wonderful characters portrayed by Bruce Willis and Sam L Jackson. Both of these wonderful actors have brought immense depth and essence to the roles of David Dunn and Elijah Price. Plus the fact that this movie deals with an unconventional theme – comic books as the main underlying concept also makes it immensely interesting to watch. While most of us dismiss comic books as cheap entertainment, Shyamalan manages to take them above mundane entertainers to a medium more meaningful genre of literature.
As usual, the last few minutes of the movie end up unraveling pretty much the rest of the movie, and this in my opinion is Shyamalan’s forte, this is where he is at his strongest, bringing out an entire story in a matter of a few minutes.
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