Retro Review: Unbreakable

Writer-director M Night Shyamalan creates another surreal journey. Will this new film measure up to the imaginative plot and brilliant subtleness of his previous film, “The Sixth Sense“?

Bruce Willis stars as David Dunn, a burnt-out ex-football hero who is watching his home life melt in front of him. Dunn is returning to his home via train when the train is involved in a horrendous train wreck. Dunn awakens in a dimly lit hospital room where he is confronted by a doctor.

The doctor explains that it is a miracle that Dunn was able to walk away from the train wreck unscathed and without a scratch. Dunn begins to show signs of deep guilt and as he walks into the waiting room his son embraces him.

All the train wreck victims families watch as Dunn’s son guides him out of the hospital.

Days pass and Dunn’s life really doesn’t change except for the huge amount of guilt placed on his shoulders.

After attending the funeral for the train wreck victims, Dunn opens a mysterious envelope on his windshield. The note says, “How many days of your life have you been sick?”

Doing a little investigative work off the note, Dunn finds himself inside this comic book art gallery called “Limited Edition”.

The name of the owner is Elijah Price (Samuel L Jackson) and he asks Dunn some interesting questions. He also tells him how much of a miracle it is to see a man walk away from a train wreck. Price also speaks of his genetic condition where his bones break very easily and his only true escape from that pain was the world of reading comics.

Price often uses comicbook references to describe the way society operates stating that comics are often tales passed down like folktales of old.

What does this tortured man have to do with a train wreck survivor? Is Dunn really a freak of nature? Is there logic to Elijah’s thinking or are these just fantastic stories?

A couple months back DC Comics released a small series of comics called “Realworlds” which was a spin-off on their popular “Elseworlds” series. In Realworlds, the essence of the hero-what it means to be a hero-comes through, as truly human beings are inspired to a level of passion, nobility and greatness worthy of the heroes themselves.

As I listened to the Price character talk to Dunn about the comics I related back to the conception of what makes a hero and that “Realworld” series. Was the Realworld concept being played in this film? In a lot of the mysterious conversations between Price and Dunn we do have the concept beginning to develop. But what I liked about Shyamalan’s plot was the reluctance of Dunn and Price’s obsession. I loved how the script would challenge the characters and the audience. Which character is right here?

The film has a great plot and some intriguing situations. However, I still had some problems with the film’s layout, and the eventual finale. I have stated this before in some of my other reviews about the necessity of film pacing. Shyamalan is infamous for putting together a very subtle story with incredible circumstances. (ala the Sixth Sense) Personally, I think that here he should have turned up the notch some.

In the “Sixth Sense” subtly was good as tried to enter the world of a boy. But in this film we really needed some energy and in some circumstances I wanted the Price character to interject with some much needed mysticism. For a lot of the film, I was wondering when it was going to pick up. I really liked the character of Elijah Price more than the Dunn character. I could feel for Elijah and I think the stairs scene was the key to showing this man’s struggle. Seeing the depth of the Price character, I asked myself would the Dunn character have been more intriguing if he was a cop instead of a security guard? Or was Shyamalan aiming for extreme subtlety in Dunn.

As the film concludes I felt a little dismayed that it ended so abruptly. Was the end rushed in hopes that audiences will return to see if there unanswered questions were found in the film. (ala the Sixth Sense) And what exactly is Dunn? Write me here if you think you know.

Trying to live up to the intensity of the “Sixth Sense” is kind of like what happened with Blair Witch 2 earlier this year. It’s impossible to carry on the same feeling from the previous film without telling the same story again. Unbreakable looks and feels very much the same as the “Sixth Sense” but internally it’s vastly different.

3.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

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