Release year: 2000
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Screenwriter: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, Eamonn Walker, Laura Regan
When David Dunn (Bruce Willis) miraculously survives an accident he is forced to realise something life changing about himself through the persistece of eccentric comic book art seller Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), who has his own theories about David.
M. Night Shyamalen is today mostly known for his brilliant debut feature, The Sixth Sense (1999), and for making movies of disputed quality since. In this assessment of his work, Unbreakable seems to be quite forgotten. Made in the year following the successful Sixth Sense, and also starring Bruce Willis (Die Hard, 1988), one might assume that Unbreakable is repetitive of Sixth Sense or somehow riding on its success, but that is in no way the case. Shyamalan always tells his own story, whether people like it or not, and this is his version of a superhero movie. It’s not flamboyant and action-packed fun as superhero movies often are these days, but rather a reflection on what it means to be a hero. As the title suggest Bruce Willis’ character David might or might not be indestructable, Samuel Jackson’s (Pulp Fiction, 1994) character Elijah on the other hand is born with a condition that causes his bones to be a fragile as glass, hence earning him the nickname ‘Mr. Glass’ during his childhood. Tied to a wheelchair, and obsessed with comic books from an early age, he naturally finds himself fascinated with David’s lack of medical history. What ensues is an intense, but slow paced thriller of high quality. While Willis’ perfomance is admirably subdued and oozes a quiet strength that carries the movie well, it is Samuel Jackson’s moving portrayal of the zealous Elijah and his interaction with Willis that stands out, the flashbacks to his childhood being particularly memorable. If watched in the right mood and with the right set of expectations, this is easily one of the best superhero movies made pre Batman Begins (2005).
M. Night Shyamalan came up with the idea for the movie while filming The Sixth Sense (1999) and he wrote it with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson in mind. Of his movies, Unbreakable is Shyamalan’s personal favourite.
Picture Copyright: Disney