The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright, Spencer Treat Clark
Running Time: 106 minutes
Riding the wave of success from the massive box office hit, The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan immediately followed with Unbreakable, a superhero origin film that has become quite a cult favorite since. Many would argue that this is his best film, though that’s hardly a bold position given his recent output.
Unbreakable rides almost entirely on two men — Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. Willis plays a security guard named David Dunn, a once promising football player who is now trying to fix his relationships at home. His wife, Audrey (Robin Wright, then also having Penn as a surname), is distant, and David has considered taking a new job in New York because of this. They have a young son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), that is caught in the middle of their continuously eroding marriage.
Samuel L. Jackson is Elijah Price, a comic book aficionado who was born with a rare disease that makes his bones especially brittle. His constant injuries led to childhood bullies naming him “Mr. Glass”, and the moniker has stuck with him ever since. Price seems to have read too many comic books because he is convinced that there is someone on the opposite side of the spectrum from him — someone who is indestructible and impervious to pain.
That man is David, who at the beginning of the film is the only person to survive a horrific train crash. Elijah hears about this news and seeks out David, telling him what he truly believes. With much persistence from his son, Joseph, David finally realizes for himself that maybe he does in fact have powers beyond the realm of normal men.
The way this story is told is actually quite revelatory; it is very low key and comes across as surprisingly believable. The film’s pacing is almost methodical, but it does an excellent job of building up both main characters. It’s much more subdued than a typical superhero film — a huge plus in my book.
It’s a shame then that the ending nearly makes the entire film fall apart.
Now, given that this is a M. Night Shyamalan film, there is naturally a huge plot twist near the end. This in itself is not a bad thing, even though there are so many hints as to where it’s going that it really isn’t all that shocking. No, the problem is that it ends so abruptly. Just as we get the big revelation, the film rushes to an end, and then has the balls to display two “what happened next” screen captions.
I can handle Shyamalan’s overabundance of gimmicky shots (of which there are many in this), but this conclusion is just absurd.
Unbreakable is generally quite good until this point, but it really left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It’s too bad that Shyamalan followed this up with Signs and The Village and so on, because this could have led to some very intriguing sequels (as was originally planned).