“… it offered what most movies can’t: complete immersion.”
It doesn’t take much for me to love a movie, but what it does take isn’t easy to achieve. For me, movies are a form of escape; a way for you to forget about your own life for a few hours and live someone else’s. For me to love a movie I have to be completely immersed in the story that is being told, and with Unbreakable that was achieved. Unbreakable is the story of David Dunn, a man who is the sole survivor of a horrific train accident who then comes into contact with Elijah Price. Price asks David to entertain the thought of why he was the only person to not only survive this train accident, but do so without a scratch. Elijah believes that comic books are a medium used to tell stories of humans who once walked the earth with powers greater than a regular human, and he also believes that David is proof that these “super humans” exist.
Now I had watched Unbreakable before, but it was about four or five years ago in my english class. Now there is nothing like watching a movie in forty minute chunks with an audience who is more eager to hear the bell dismiss them from class than to discover what is going to happen next in a movie such as Unbreakable; but nevertheless I remember liking the movie. I only remembered a few key scenes, and I knew the general plot of the movie (and also why we were watching it in class), but past all of that I went into Unbreakable not really knowing what to expect. What surprised me most about Unbreakable is how the film managed to not only create a different superhero story to ones that we’ve seen before, but also make sure that the focus of the movie isn’t necessarily about David being special. What Unbreakable offers is a story of a broken man, with a broken family. You see this in the first scene we meet David where he is introduced by taking off his wedding ring when an attractive woman decides to sit next to him on the train. This gives you everything you need to know about the character in a brief, three second action. This understanding only amplifies when we see David, finally reunited with his family from his brief visit at the hospital, reluctantly hold his wife’s hand only because that is what his son wanted to see. David is a broken man and Elijah tries to equate that to David not doing what we was put on this earth to do. This creates a really interesting dynamic between the two characters because they are constantly in this power struggle. David has all of the power (literally) and Elijah wants to harness that, but at the same time David is powerless and is looking to Elijah to essentially solve his problems. Of course this all culminates into a brilliant ending that satisfies every itch I had throughout the film, but I won’t spoil that here.
Now at the heart of this amazing story is the performances in Unbreakable. Of course you have the star of the film, Bruce Willis, doing an amazing job playing David Dunn. His dejected demeanour, his ability to brush everything off, all of this creates a beautiful picture that really brings David Dunn to life. At the other end of this spectrum you have Samuel L. Jackson playing Elijah Price. Now Price’s story is the one that we get to see in full throughout the film, and what makes it so compelling is Jackson’s performance. In Elijah Price we see a man who has been beaten down by life but he refuses to give up, instead looking for answers even going so far as to entertain the thought that superheroes exist. Much like David Dunn, Elijah Price is at his wits end but for different reasons. This tenacity and level of uncertainty that Jackson brings to his performance really makes the character of Elijah Price what it is. Even past the two leads in the film you have some real stellar performances, mainly found in David’s family. Robin Wright delivers an amazing performance as the other half of David’s marriage, and really does a good job of playing someone who has checked out of the relationship, but at the same time wants desperately for it to be fixed. And then of course you have David’s son Joseph, played by Spencer Treat Clark, who wants these rumours about his father to be true so bad. This is really interesting to me because, from a writing perspective, I think it is brilliant. What kid doesn’t want their dad to be a superhero? Hell, most kids even think of their dads as superheroes up until a certain age; so it is interesting to see a child confronted with the possibility that his dad may in fact be a superhero. This also adds another layer because Joseph is currently dealing with his parents splitting up, and if his dad was a superhero that would solve everything, right? Well, at least to a kid that scenario seems plausible. Now there is one scene in particular where Spencer Treat Clark’s acting really shines, but to discuss it would be a real big spoiler for the movie. If you’ve seen Unbreakable, you know which scene I’m talking about.
Now apart from the story and the acting there were some other things I really liked about Unbreakable, the first being the score. The music used in Unbreakable was absolutely beautiful. It was bleak, it was emotional, it was heroic, it was able to fit into any scenario wonderfully. One thing I didn’t like about Unbreakable’s music was the film’s “theme”. This song, used a few times throughout the film, is not something that I would call good. It has the makings to be wonderful, and similar to other songs in the film, but it instead opts for this strange, very dated (but not at the time) beat that ruins it for me. This is probably just matter of taste, but in my opinion it tasted like shit. I also really liked the direction in Unbreakable. Unbreakable is one of M. Night Shyamalan’s earlier works, but you can definitely see a lot of talent shining through. What I liked about the direction in Unbreakable was the beautiful, cinematic look most of the scenes had, but also the creative shots used in the film. Be it shooting your actors through a reflection, or having the camera in constant motion Unbreakable offers some really creative, but still beautiful, shots to look at. Just like with the music there is a few things that I didn’t like about the direction, but that is once again personal preference and it is only during one or two scenes. The last thing I want to discuss is the editing in Unbreakable. Now for most of the movie the cuts are seamless, which is a good thing, but one scene in particular made me want to write this portion of this review in the first place. This scene is the pool scene. Now once again I’m not going to spoil anything, but those who have seen the movie know what I’m talking about. The way that the editing in this scene conveys a sense of dread, quickly followed by panic and confusion is brilliant.
Overall Unbreakable is an amazing movie. So much so that it is hard for me articulate my thoughts in this section. It has everything: great performances, a great story, wonderful direction and editing. And most importantly it offered what most movies can’t: complete immersion.
I give Unbreakable an A