Now I know what the end of Split meant!
Synopsis: A security guard, having been the sole survivor of a high-fatality train crash, finds himself at the centre of a mysterious theory that explains his consistent physical good fortune. When news of his survival is made public, a man whose own body is excessively weak tracks him down in an attempt to explain his unique unbreakable nature. (Google)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, and Robin Wright
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Rating: 14A (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 107mins
Fresh off The Sixth Sense, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s followup was a film that was ahead of its time. Before the mainstream superhero films that have dominated this century, there was Unbreakable, a superhero film unlike any other. Perhaps due to budgetary constraints, this film chose to take a more character-centric approach for what was in essence, an origin story of sorts about a security guard named David Dunn (Willis). The lone survivor of a deadly train crash, was Dunn just lucky or was there something more going on (we already know that there was)?
Whatever was happening to Dunn was unbeknownst to him. Meanwhile, a man with a rare condition affecting the density of his bones, causing them to break easily approached him with a theory that may be the answer to what had been plaguing him. Elijah Price’s (Jackson) condition led him towards comic books. He became obsessed with them, believing them to be the answer to everything. He also believed that Dunn’s ability to not get hurt made him a superhero and the polar opposite of himself. He had been looking for the right person for a long time and was certain that him surviving was all the proof he needed. Dunn was understandably skeptical but as the film went on, he started to embrace the truth as it seemed to be the only logical explanation for what was happening.
The weakest part of the film had to be Dunn’s home life with his wife Audrey (Wright) and his young son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark). He did not feel right which made him grow distant from Audrey and Joseph. He pushed them away perhaps as a way to protect them from him. While Dunn may not have truly believed who he was, Joseph was a staunch believer of his, so much so that he would often take things too far as most kids would. In fact, the train accident served as a wake-up call for Dunn and Audrey who still tried to make their marriage work. Ultimately, the bad dialog during these scenes was what killed them.
Watching Dunn going back in time and coming to terms with what he was and what he can do was very compelling to watch despite the apparent lack of emotion from Dunn and the general coldness of the film. The film’s excellent score and some unique camera angles helped to fill some of those gaps and kept things interesting, however, it still could have used a little more emotion. Maybe it took a little too long to get there but once it did get there, it was very satisfying to see him put them into action (it would have been nice to see more but at least we have Glass). The film would end with an unexpected twist (if you’ve never heard of Glass), that would tie everything together.
The best part of the film was its performances, specifically from Willis and Jackson as Dunn and Price respectively. Willis’s performance may be lacking in emotion but he can still covey plenty of emotion in the subtlest of ways. Not too many can do brooding better than Willis as Dunn was a man of few words, however, what he did say spoke volumes. Jackson was equally as good in a lesser role thanks to his natural charisma and screen presence, balancing charming and creepy. He and Willis’ chemistry was excellent as well. In terms of supporting performances, Wright and Clark were okay. Wright was handcuffed by the material and Clark gave a run-of-the-mill kid performance.
Overall, Unbreakable was a great superhero film before mainstream superhero films even existed. It may be a little slow but its character-centric approach and excellent score make for a much more engaging story. There may be a few hiccups but Willis and Jackson were superb as the leads. Definitely one of Shyamalan’s bests.