(US); 2000; Rated PG-13; 106 Minutes
Bruce Willis: David Dunn
Samuel L. Jackson: Elijah Price
Robin Wright: Audrey Dunn
Spencer Treat Clark: Joseph Dunn
Charlayne Woodard: Elijah's Mother
Eamonn Walker: Dr. Mathison
Leslie Stefanson: Kelly
Produced by Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Barry Mendel,
Sam Mercer, and M. Night Shyamalan; Directed and screenwritten
by M. Night Shyamalan
by DAVID KEYES
is perhaps nothing more pathetic than a movie that supersedes
great expression with great contrivance, and M. Night Shyamalan's
new thriller "Unbreakable" operates under such reasoning.
When dealing with subject matter that borders between realistic
and far-fetched, it's not a matter of how the story is set
up or what the subject matter deals with: it's all in how
you allow it to unfold which ultimately decides the merit.
A movie that I am instantly reminded of, "Being John Malkovich,"
operates on a plain of existence where the inarguable absurdity
is effective because of the influence of brilliant satire,
strong details, and smart but wicked characterizations.
"Unbreakable," like a cinematic opposite, is a long and
odd marriage of fantasy and realism, but one that lacks
substantial pace, decent characters, thrills, clarity, shape,
and its own inspiration too often to ever be taken seriously.
movie is almost like "Frequency," only with more lunacy
and less intrigue. The story deals with David Dunn (Bruce
Willis), a security guard from Philadelphia who practically
sleepwalks through everyday life, the reasons stemming from
his marital problems and lack of enthusiasm for life in
general. At the beginning of the picture, a large train
wreck kills every passenger on board, except for David himself,
who emerges from the accident not just alive, but without
a single scratch on him.
by his survival, David meets up with the mysterious but
sophisticated Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a man with
a rare bone disease who has a passion for comic books. His
presumption is that super heroes actually dwell in our own
plane of existence, only no one realizes so because the
people themselves are not ever aware of their extraordinary
capabilities. Elijah, probing David with all the essential
questions (did he ever remember getting sick, having broken
bones, etc.), makes the distinction that the security guard
himself may be one of these real-life super humans he has
projected in his theories. That, at bare minimum would certainly
explain his apparent success in cheating death. But the
actors, Willis and Jackson in particular, wander through
the material like lost souls without knowledge of the circumstances
that have brought them together. The plot's heavy-handed
detail doesn't do much to relieve the strain, either.
director, Shyamalan, is more famously known for last year's
hit "The Sixth Sense," but anyone who sees his latest endeavor
will easily be able to pick up on that detail. The catch
is, this new film is practically a clone of its predecessor,
with similar structure, character organization, and thematic
elements woven into the material as if he had no other options
at his disposal. That may have been the first problem, as
the predecessor, in the views of a selected group of individuals
such as myself, is also one of the most overrated ghost
stories ever made. In combining the two movies, a general
checklist begins to take shape; both pictures have: (1)
a tense opening climax setting the tone for the further
plot implications; (2) the slow erosion of the main characters'
family relationships; (3) the horror in accepting that you
might have an extraordinary gift; and (4) being redeemed
all in the end by the wise words of a child. I assume there
are more similarities between the two at hand, but trying
to distinguish them all would be a long and tiresome task.
can cloak an old cliché or formula like these with a strong
sense of style, though, and Shyamalan, at least, knows the
touch of any good director of modern thrillers. His style
is flawless and effectively executed, with a saturation
of monotonous, foreboding tones, and cinematography that
stalks its players with little mercy or hesitation. Does
the visual success distract attention from the story's shortcomings,
though? Not always, which undermines not just the whole
product, but our perception of it as well.
it's the writing process that throws Shyamalan off his course;
like the last movie, the screenplay that is used in "Unbreakable"
is framed out of characters and twists that feel more like
leftovers from better films, the only significant difference
being that the Oscar-nominated 1999 picture at least had
a solid resolution, (unlike this one, which is clearly unsure
as to what kind of ending is necessary in putting and end
to the plot). The fact that the movie has an ending at all
is, I guess, enough of a consolation to keep us quiet—that
is, at least until another film with him as the writer gets
is a very discouraging film, if not for those who are bewildered
by the overwhelming positive reaction behind it, then for
those who have repeatedly tried, even if it takes lowering
personal standards, to find enough redeemable qualities
among the flaws to deem the final result as at least a recommendable
product. An attempt to dissect every little detail here,
needless to say, only leads to a more unfavorable outcome;
the deeper you go, the more "Unbreakable" begins to seem
like a labored, shallow exercise in cheap thrills that is
more interested in playing with the audience's mind than
uncovering a decent, thought-provoking narrative.
David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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