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by sophie mount | december, 2000


David Dunn is the sole, miraculous survivor of a devastating train crash. A note placed on his car windscreen asks him how many times he has been sick in his life. As he asks his boss and his soon-to-be ex-wife, he discovers that he was only ill once in his life. Elijah Price, on the other hand has spent most of his life in hospital and wants to help Dunn find out who he really is.

David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is a disillusioned man in love, life and labour. He and his wife Audrey (Robin Wright Penn) are separated, but live in the same house with their son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) until Dunn can get a new job and move out. On his way back from a job interview, Dunn becomes the only survivor of a gruesome train crash, which killed over a hundred passengers and crew. The wreckage is spread over a mile. No one knows how he survived.

Elijah Price (Samuel L Jackson) believes he has the answer to the question. He has a form of osteogensis imperfecta (Brittle Bone disease) and has spent the majority of his life in hospital, plaster casts and pain. As a distraction from his illness, Elijah’s mother gives him some comics, which become his guide in life. You will notice the ‘square jaw-bone of the hero and the pointed chin of the villain’ - it is pointed out many times by Elijah when he explains to anyone who will listen, the physiology and psychology behind comic book characters. As a serious comic collector and art dealer, Elijah has spent his life looking for someone who is his opposite, someone as unbreakable as he is breakable.

Dunn and Price form an unsteady friendship and Dunn begins to realise that he distances himself from people, including his own family, because he has not found his true ‘role’ in life. Price helps Dunn realise his strengths, both physically and mentally. Dunn seems to have a (sixth) sense and can see if people have done evil deeds, just by touching them. When Dunn realises he can do this, Price encourages him to use this power to help people, but as with ‘Sixth Sense’ there may be more to this than initially meets the eye.

Shyamalan, as well as being writer, director and producer of Unbreakable, has in fact filched a large proportion of his colleagues from the set of Sixth Sense, most obviously in the form of Willis. Joanna Johnston (Costume), James Newton Howard (Music), Gary Barber & Roger Birnbaum (Ex Prods), Larry Fulton (Production Designer) and Barry Mendel & Sam Mercer (Producers) were all involved with Sixth Sense, so a supernatural element, was bound to spill-over a little.

The film is essentially enjoyable, with a good performance by Willis and an excellent performance from Jackson (last seen together in Die-Hard with a Vengence). However, the characters, save possibly Elijah, are never particularly engaging, although this is possibly the object in Dunn’s case. The cinematography is first class and several clever camera angles help keep the intrigue going.

Unbreakable wavers between mild comedy, grim scenes and wife-and-husband-getting-back-together scenes. Add to this a dash of comic book heroes and villains, and a super Shyamalan twist and you have a good, but slightly confused piece of work which does not seem sure whether it should be one thing or another, so plumps for a bit of everything. Having said that, Shyamalan has achieved well deserved success in a relatively small space of time and will undoubtedly go on to be even more successful and Unbreakable is certain to do well at the box office.

Dir: M Night Shyamalan
Producer(s): Barry Mendel & Sam Mercer
DoP: Eduardo Serra, AFC
Principal Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L Jackson, Robin Wright Penn, Spencer Treat Clark
Dist: Buena Vista International (UK) Ltd
Country: USA
Year: 2000

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