Throwback Film Review: M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable”

AUSTIN VAN PAY | ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST

M. Night Shyamalan recently released “Split”, a great return to form for someone who has been around for many years, but has had his fair share of missteps concerning films. One of his lesser known films, “Unbreakable,” was released in 2000 and has flown under the radar for many years now. The film never really gained an audience at its release. On a second viewing, it proved fantastic.  Check it out,  especially if you’ve recently seen “Split.”

“Unbreakable”stars Bruce Willis as David Dunn, the sole survivor of a horrific train accident. Not only was David the only person to survive, but he also came out of the crash completely unharmed. This sparks the interest of a man named Elijah Price (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who gives David a very strange explanation as to why David was unharmed and escaped the crash without a scratch. Elijah has a rare disease that makes his bones equivalent to glass. He has been searching his entire life for someone who is the polar opposite of him. Elijah believes that David Dunn may just be this person, or in other words, David may be the superhero Elijah has always been searching for.

This film from Mr. Shyamalan is a great and totally unique take on the superhero genre. In the present moment, superhero movies are the norm and are extremely popular. “Unbreakable” is a much more unique take on what we typically believe a superhero movie should be. It’s much more realistic, dark and serious in style, and it works on many different levels.

“Unbreakable” was  made 17 years ago, before the superhero film boom happened. That definitely makes it a great comparison piece to our current superhero genre films.

The character of David Dunn played by Bruce Willis is very well done. He is immediately given a lot of depth within the first 5 minutes of the film. The interplay between Samuel L. Jackson and Willis is fantastic. Jackson plays the strange comic book collector, Elijah, extremely well. The story of his battle with the disease is fleshed out perfectly so that you do feel for him. He really is a great opposite to David Dunn.  The film is anchored by Willis as David Dunn. The character’s traumatic past and how it all plays into his relationship with his family becomes key to the drama and expansion of his background. Even though his character is quiet, you can’t help but feel for him and see his emotions shining through as the story progresses. This may be one of Willis’s best roles.

Being an M. Night Shyamalan film means that there has to be a twist involved near the end. This film doesn’t disappoint. It makes your perspective change and adds some more depth to some of the character motivations throughout the film.

Overall, “Unbreakable” is a fantastic and unique take on the superhero genre we have all come to know. It is made up of great characters to invest yourself in. There is also a notable connection to “Split,” but I won’t ruin the surprise for you here. If you are a fan of a unique  dramatic tale with great characters and a superhero infusion, then this film would be well worth a watch!

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