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Unbreakable (2000)

Unbreakable (2000)

Starring: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Manoj “Night” Shyamalan
Synopsis: Follow up to Sixth Sense is much of a retread but not half as effective
Review by: Taimur Hyat


Director M. Shyamalan’s highly awaited follow-up to The Sixth Sense is an ambitious, intriguing but ultimately flawed piece of film-making. In a boring and cannibalistic cinematic move, Shyamalan essentially plagiarizes the corny spiritual mumbo jumbo that lay at the core of The Sixth Sense – but without the suspense, newness, and cleverly concealed “surprise” ending (or at least a surprise that is worth the wait) that made Sense such a critical and commercial success.

Bruce Willis, reprises the role of the soft-spoken, melancholic “ordinary man” from The Sixth Sense, as David Dunn. Here Willis is not shot dead in the opening few scenes as he was in that previous film, but instead is a passenger on a train that has a horrific accident. He is the only survivor. Samuel L. Jackson, as Elijah Price, is a comic-book store-owner – with a rare medical condition that makes his bones extremely brittle – who tracks Dunn after his miraculous survival to offer a bizarre explanation for why he has survived “unbroken”.

Unfortunately, what could have been an intriguing film exploring the necessary co-existence of good and evil, and the possibilities that open up when comic-book superheroes and arch-villains are transferred to the real world becomes, in the hands of Shyamalan a ponderous journey through the same melancholic, semi-spiritual territory that he explored far more effectively in The Sixth Sense. And while the plot holes in the former (why, for instance, does the former mental patient who kills Willis have the same lock of white hair as the child patient Willis counsels later?) were forgivable because of the tense, prowling camerawork and sophisticated plotting, here they generally leave one feeling deeply unsatisfied.

One simply does not care for Dunn or Price, or the other emotionally damaged people who cross their paths (Price has a troubled relationship with his mother; Dunn’s marriage is close to collapse). Shyamalan clearly is a stylish, thoughtful film-maker, and it is a pleasure to see a South Asian director breaking into Hollywood’s mainstream, but attempting to move beyond the themes of his initial cinematic success (after all, Unbreakable was made in the same year in which Steven Soderbergh showed how it could be done by completing both the kitsch main-stream success Erin Brockovich and the uncompromising, critically acclaimed independently released Traffic) might allow him greater opportunities to deliver on his obvious talent.