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Review by Andrew Manning (11/00)

Release: 2000, Buena Vista
Starring: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
MPAA Rating: [PG-13] violence, language
Genre: Thriller

Are you unbreakable?...

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When security guard David Dunne (Willis) miraculously survives a trainwreck without any sings of injury, a mysterious stranger (Jackson) appears and tells him that he is destined for a remarkable fate. Dunne's subsequent quest to understand his true nature leads him to an amazing self-discovery.


Unbelievably disappointing and anti-climactic, this sophomore effort from the creator of The Sixth Sense can't hold a candle to his debut film.


From the beginning, we learn that Samuel L. Jackson's character of Elijah Price is afflicted with a degenerative disease that causes his bones to break with unnerving ease. That fact, coupled with expectations carried over from M. Night Shyamalan's first film, The Sixth Sense, imbues Unbreakable with a good deal of constant tension. There are two scenes in particular that push you to the edge of your seat, when you can just about feel Price's bones about the snap. His introduction is no less eerie: at his birth in a department store's backroom, he can't stop crying. When his mother asks what's wrong with her baby, an astonished doctor informs her that he has been born with all of his limbs broken.

This opening scene is shot as a reflection in a mirror, giving the distinct impression that the world we're viewing is not quite normal or real. Shyamalan excels at these types of unconventional perceptions, and Unbreakable definitely feels both alien and muted. Unfortunately, such interesting effects are not quite enough to make the setting fantastic enough to validate the final conclusion.


A few months ago, I wrote a list of the most disappointing and/or ridiculous endings Unbreakable could possibly have. At the top of this list was the rehashed idea that Bruce Willis found out at the end of the movie that he had really died in the trainwreck. (How awful would that have been?) While that's not Unbreakable's true ending, I am disappointed to report that the movie actually ended up very close to my #2 most preposterous ending. That's just too scary...

While I won't spell out exactly what happened so as not to spoil it for those of you who still actually want to see it, I will say that the conclusion is utterly foolish, and places way too much credence in the fiction of comic books. This is doubly disappointing because expectations were so high coming off of The Sixth Sense. While that debut feature of Shyamalan's wasn't the most gripping story through the bulk of its two hours, the ending was an amazingly brilliant piece of work that brought everything into a masterful focus. But whereas that ending was clever and calculated, the ending of Unbreakable tries merely to shock on the most tired and cliche level--we're talking Wild Things-type bad. The rest of the plot twists (such as a staged injury) are largely predictable matters of course.

The closing captions, which explain what happen to the two primary characters after the events of the movie, while keeping in a comic-like narration, is overkill that comes across like a bad soap opera--a wannabe documentary that can't even convince its audience of its authenticity.

Audience reaction wasn't exactly positive when I saw this film, either. Everyone kept laughing at scenes that weren't meant as humor. (I guess we should have saw the unintentional giggles coming, what with people invariably laughing at Samuel L. Jackson's hair in the trailer.) In one scene that could have been downright unnerving, Bruce Willis' misguided son tries to prove his father's unbreakable status and threatens to shoot him with a handgun. But the tension is quickly unraveled when they start talking: the audience giggled when Bruce Willis said, "put that gun down right now or you are in big trouble," then burst into outright laughter when the son tearfully pleaded with his mother, "I'll only shoot him once!"

The major problem in the storytelling is how the insane rantings of Samuel L. Jackson's character slowly narrow in on the truth. He works well as a lunatic obsessed with the superhuman, but the minute his theories start to hint at reality, the story loses credibility. Believability is all but thrown out the window once Willis starts donning a cape-like outfit and running around like Superman. Let's just put it this way: I'm surprised they didn't take the next step in cheese and start playing "Kryptonite" by 3 Doors Down...

Although many people will undoubtedly be disappointed by the uninspired twist at the end of Unbreakable's journey, there's still a proverbial silver lining to this dark cloud: Shyamalan is a creative enough director and screenwriter that he'll no doubt make a good number of more accomplished films in the future...

Rating: 4 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)

Related Material
Storyboard Trailer & Still Images: Unbreakable
Movie Review: The Sixth Sense
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