In anticipation of M. Night Shyamalan’s upcoming “Glass,” I decided to rewatch “Unbreakable.” I hadn’t seen it since its release in theatres back in 2000 (wow, time has flown). This was Shyamalan’s second feature following the huge, mind blowing and shocking twist ending (not to me, however) Best Picture nominee “The Sixth Sense.” With one film, Shyamalan was on his way to becoming the next Alfred Hitchcock known for the twist. He offered it up again with “Unbreakable.” However, I recall not being impressed with the film. I found it to be boring and drawn out. Very quiet, very talky. I only concluded that…well…there can only be one Alfred Hitchcock.
On my second viewing, last night, my impression changed. Shyamalan asks the question if it is at all likely to actually have superheroes and super villains living among us, not so overt though in colorful costumes and bombastic theme songs. Bear in mind, this is before the influx of super hero films that dominated the box office. Little reference is made to Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and so on. When David Dunn (played by Bruce Willis) becomes the only survivor of a massive train crash, he questions the possibilities and what his actual limits are or if any limits truly exist for him. Elijah Price (played by Samuel L. Jackson, trying poorly not to be Samuel L. Jackson) appears to have an affliction opposite of Dunn’s. His bones can shatter at just the slightest impact. Elijah nudges Dunn on to further find out more about himself. It’s not until later that we get a clear picture of Elijah’s incessant interest in Dunn.
Shyamalan does a nice job at studying the characteristics of superheroes from the pages of comic books. He takes time to focus on how their drawn on the page against the characteristics of villains. He even recruits Robin Wright Penn as Dunn’s wife who is the Lois Lane of the picture. It’s a nice touch how she’s unaware of what is right in front of her. Shyaymalan further delves into symbolism with use of a poncho, or the security guard occupation of Dunn, or the handicaps of Elijah. These touches all become recognizable. If you read comic books or have in the past, you might nod and smirk at these flourishes.
“Unbreakable” is an interesting piece. I liked and appreciated it more on my second viewing. I hadn’t remembered much of the film beyond the beginning and the plot twist ending. Because I knew the ending this time around, I felt more in touch with scenes that during the course of the film on my first viewing I really had no clue as to why they were being shown. I regarded moments like that as just more talking; more talking about nothing in particular. On my second viewing, moments like these carried more weight. Shyamalan put much thought into “Unbreakable” as its writer and director. It’s worth a look or two.