Unbreakable – Interesting Premise, Boring Movie

Unbreakable – Interesting Premise, Boring Movie

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  1. M. Night Shyamalan is most well known for his 1999 Oscar nominated film The Sixth Sense starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment.  A year later, Shyamalan teamed up with Bruce Willis again for his suspense filled mystery/drama Unbreakable.  This film will always be compared to The Sixth Sense because of its proximity in history and because of the commonality of starring Bruce Willis.  That is bad luck for Unbreakable, though, because it is a far inferior film (that doesn’t mean it’s not good though).

    What is it about?

    David Dunne (Bruce Willis) survives a brutal train wreck in which all 130 other passengers died.  What’s even stranger is that he doesn’t break a single bone or have a scratch on him.  He doesn’t find this nearly as strange as eccentric comic book collector Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson) does.  Elijah meets up with David and reveals his hypothesis that David is a superhero but doesn’t know it.  David thinks that notion is crazy and thinks Elijah is even more crazy.

    After some inner struggles, David finally ends up embracing his "unbreakable" nature and decides to use it for good.  He tries to save a family from a sadistic criminal who has taken them hostage.  When he gets there, he has to face his weakness:  water.  Back when David was a child, he almost drowned leading Elijah to believe that David’s weakness is water (like kryptonite is to Super Man).  The criminal David is trying to stop ends up throwing David into the pool in which he gets tangled up within the pool cover.

    Once the kids save him and the criminal is taken into custody, David goes to thank Elijah but gets more than he bargained for as he finds out Elijah’s dark past.

    Is it any good?

    The premise is intriguing:  what if a superhero didn’t know he was a superhero?  It’s a unique take on the superhero genre and, for that, I appreciate this film.  I can’t, however, say I enjoy watching this film.  It is so tedious.  It seems to take forever to get to the point.  The pacing is very slow and Shyamalan certainly takes his time revealing everything.  There is also very little action.  The majority of the film involves characters talking to each other and the dialogue isn’t good enough to keep you entertained in scenes like that.

    One thing that really stands out in this film is how long it holds shots.  Normally, you would have multiple angles and such throughout a scene even if it is just two people having a conversation.  This film, however contains many scenes that take place in one shot.  Many times that shot subtly moves as the characters talk, but occasionally it’s simply a static shot.  This adds to the tedious feel of the film.  More cuts would add some visual interest to the slow paced film, but Shyamalan decides to keep it slow.  The single shot style does evoke a sort of comic book feel (since the film relies heavily on comic books) because comics tell their story through single frames with dialogue bubbles.  I hope that’s what Shyamalan was going for because, if not, he didn’t realize how hard it is to watch.  

    Overall Unbreakable is interesting but too slowly paced to really hold an audience for 106 minutes.

    Nolan’s Grade:  C+

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