Unbreakable

Unbreakable

****1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Storytelling has been abused in Hollywood since producers started consulting script doctors. M Night Shyamalan bucks this trend. Still only 30, he has a unique cinematic style, imaginatively daring and tinged with a beguiling strangeness.

In the tradition of ground-breaking moviemakers, he writes, directs and produces. You notice the difference in his clean, unmolested dialogue, the absence of cliche and a recognition that psychic forces affect the way we live and breathe.

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The Sixth Sense was a monster hit, making over $650million worldwide. Unbreakable is a better film, despite its title, working on several levels of uncertainty.

It begins with a train crash, from which there is one survivor, miraculously unharmed. His name is David Dunn (Bruce Willis), a security guard at the university stadium in Philadelphia. His escape is noted by Elijah Price (Samuel L Jackson), a dealer in comic book artwork, who suffers from brittle bone disease.

"They call me Mr Glass," he quips.

Why Price should be interested in Dunn connects with his encyclopedic knowledge of comic book heroes and the fact that Dunn appears invincible, while he is accident prone and crippled. On the surface, this may appear irrelevant when in truth it contains the seeds of something extraordinary and frightening.

Dunn's character is the opposite of Price's. A quiet, introspective man, he prefers anonymity to thoughts of what he could have been, a football star who gave it up at college for the sake of his girl (Robin Wright Penn). Now the marriage is fractured and he is looking for a job in New York.

In the spirit of Shyamalan, the story is never as simple as it appears. Lurking beneath waves of normality lies the realisation that destiny has its own agenda. Price believes that there is nothing worse than "to not know your place in this world, to not know why you're here." Dunn is afraid of the question.

Matching the subtlety of the story and the assurance of the camerawork, the acting shines. Relieved of his super star status, Willis digs deep and gives a generous, thoughtful performance. Jackson is electric and fascinating, while Wright Penn proves yet again how intelligently she approaches her work. Spencer Treat Clark in the pivotal role of David and Audrey Dunn's 12-year-old son never puts a foot wrong.

This is stronger than fear, more disturbing than you dare imagine.

Reviewed on: 24 Jan 2001
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Unbreakable packshot
A man who survives a train wreck begins to suspect he may be super-human.
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Director: M Night Shyamalan

Writer: M Night Shyamalan

Starring: Bruce Willis, Samuel L Jackson, Robin Wright Penn, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard

Year: 2000

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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