After The Sixth Sense it was inevitable that M. Night Shana-na-na’s follow-up would be both much anticipated and heavily scrutinised. The end result was a solid film that was pleasantly enjoyable and perhaps only 10% off its predecessor.
Unfortunately that 10% drop in quality has been consistently manifesting itself with every subsequent release from the man who invented the ‘blockbuster twist’.
Unbreakable though is still very good. It teams Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson – the man who never met a wig he didn’t like – in a tale that wants to be a real life comic book hero story.
Jackson plays Elijah Price, a man whose knees don’t just ache in cold weather – they snap. Elijah has a rare condition that makes his bones brittle and untrustworthy, he walks with a cane as a result of countless injuries and seems as stable and confident as a house of cards in a tornado.
David Dunn (Bruce Watchyoutalkinabout? Willis) is the polar opposite, white, sturdy, confident and – aside from his hair – has never suffered an injury in his life.
Elijah’s troubled childhood and constant injuries lead to him becoming a shut-in devoted to comic book superheros, people that possessed strength and invincibility where Elijah himself was so frail and fragile. He grew up to become a respected collector and trader of comic book art (though he probably calls them ‘graphic novels’), which even as recently as the 90s meant he was deemed as eccentric and strange. (Now loving comics and making money from them doesn’t seem strange at all.)
David Dunn on the other hand is an everyday Joe, a security guard at a local ballpark with a wife and son. Until one day he survives a catastrophic train wreck that leaves hundreds dead. Not only does he survive he seems unharmed, with not a scratch on him. This fact is immediately picked up by the media who all want to talk to Dunn and cast him as some sort of… well… unbreakable guy.
This leads to Elijah tracking down David and suggesting that maybe his survival wasn’t such an incredible fluke, but merely evidence of something greater. David initially scoffs at Elijah’s assertions, then becomes more forceful when Elijah won’t let up.
At home David’s son embraces the new theory, and is more than willing to go to extreme measures to test it, but his wife Audrey (Robyn Wright-Penn) has become distant and David is more concerned that it will be his marriage that shatters.
Far from being a cheesy affair aping the worst ‘realisation’ sequences from films like Spiderman, Daredevil and such, Unbreakable unfolds slowly despite some of David’s more eyebrow raising discoveries about his personal abilities. As with The Sixth Sense as an audience we are more willing to swallow the storyline because of the seriousness and subtlety with which it is handled (again something that has grown 10% more difficult with each ensuing film).
M. Night Shampoo-a-lamb tries every camera trick and visual flourish in the book – most of them work too – Willis and Jackson’s pairing is a strong one that provides credibility to what could easily be a silly story, and even though the twist is a little more obvious this time around unlike say The Happening it barely detracts from the film, even if it doesn’t really boast the “wow” factor of The Sixth Sense.
Final Rating – 8 / 10. Unbreakable isn’t in the same league as The Sixth Sense, as mentioned the twist is lacking and the film doesn’t really know how to end without it, but it remains M.’s second best effort so far, and is a quality film in its own right.