Canister X Movie Review #90: Unbreakable (2000)
Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Runtime 106 min.
5 out of 5
Ordinary David Dunn (Bruce Willis) has a failing marriage, a son who needs him, and a job as a security guard. However, all that changes after a severe train wreck and he is the only survivor. Even more miraculous, he is completely unharmed. When confronted by a man named Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), who suggests David is invulnerable, David shrugs it off but eventually begins to test himself and discovers that maybe he’s not that ordinary after all and soon learns he can do things no other man can. At Elijah’s insistence, David explores his abilities even more and soon begins a journey that reveals maybe he is indeed unbreakable.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love superhero origin stories and Unbreakable is just that. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan of Sixth Sense fame, Unbreakable is a story deconstructing the superhero, and suggesting a possible real life origin for these amazing people, while keeping your interest from start to finish.
Using the real-life medical condition osteogenesis imperfecta as a springboard, suggesting that if someone with such frail bones can exist, is it not possible someone with unbreakable bones—even body—can exist? And thus is the story as we follow Elijah Price as he searches out this amazing possibility in the person of David Dunn.
This movie also heavily references comic books, Elijah posing the idea that comic books are modern day retellings of stories of times past and of real people who once were able to do things other people couldn’t.
Each moment of this movie is an in-depth look at what makes the superhero tick, everything from the discovery of his power, to his motivation in using it, to the doubt that such a possibility could exist in a person, to finding a possible weakness, to balancing having this special ability with the demands of everyday life, and more.
This movie is a drama and not an action flick. While there is some action, namely toward the end, it’s a life and times superhero story that makes you stop and think about what being a person with an extraordinary ability might actually be like, if it would be easy or hard, or a bit of both. What kind of challenges would you face? What kinds of benefits?
Apparently, M. Night Shyamalan came up with the idea following the standard three-part structure of a superhero story: the origin, the rise to being a hero, then the final confrontation with the villain. The movie has all these elements, but because he found it the most interesting, Shyamalan spends most of the time focusing on the origin. As a result, there is such depth surrounding David Dunn and Elijah Price that as the hero and villain, they rival characters that have been around for decades in terms of richness. Very well done.
This movie is just so, so good and is one of my all-time favorites. It’s one of those flicks to throw on on a rainy day, get under a blanket, and get swept up in the world of the superhero only to be inspired to look for the spectacular in one’s own self.