“What if Superman was on earth and didn’t know he was Superman?”
This is how, one of my favourite directors of all time, Quentin Tarantino describes one of my favourite films of all time, “Unbreakable” and I couldn’t agree more. The answer to that question is what M. Night. Shyamalan. executes magnificently in this film.
There are very few movies out there that have affected me as deeply and as immensely as “Unbreakable” has. Director M. Night Shyamalan’s second theatrical release and follow up to his major debut success “The Sixth Sense”, Unbreakable was a film that upon it’s release in 2000, didn’t, in my opinion, get the response that it deserved. In fact, even today, many out there still remain unaware of the existence of this cinematic gem and consequently, the film still remains grossly underrated.
I’m not going to dwell onto M. Night Shyamalan’s recent work when writing this review (Although his 2015 release, “The Visit” is a return to form), but based on this film alone, M. Night Shyamalan proves himself to be nothing short of a master storyteller (When he wants to be). Bear in mind, I’m not going to spoil anything major here as I know that there are still a lot of people who haven’t seen this film, but the basic plot revolves around David Dunn (Played to subtle perfection by Bruce Willis), a security guard, and Elijah Price (A brilliant as usual Samuel L. Jackson), a comic art connoisseur. Elijah is afflicted with a medical condition that renders his bones extremely brittle, and consequently, renders him extremely fragile; in that if he even has a slight fall, he’s more or less going to end up with every bone in his body broken. As he’s so frail, Elijah believes that; like in the comic-books that he curates, there must exist someone on the other end of the spectrum. Someone, so extremely strong and powerful.
Elijah believes David Dunn to be this person and he strives to get Dunn to believe it himself. This is the bare bones of the plot and trust me, it just gets more and more interesting as it progresses.
Being a very unconventional cinematic take on the superhero saga, Shyamalan frames his characters inside closed spaces in a lot of his shots, stimulating a comic panel in many instances (For example, he frames his characters in a doorway, a window or in one of the most unforgettable opening sequences of all time, a mirror). He uses colours in a way that, while being a great stylistic choice, also serves as an amazing narrative tool to properly define and lend depth and identity to his characters. In short, the direction in this film, for a cinephile like myself, is just a bounty of riches just waiting to be discovered. The writing in this film is very subtle and the dialogue is sparse, with Shyamalan opting to use the visuals as his aid in telling this fascinating tale. This writing style actually helps the film, as a lot of the emotional and truly affecting moments (of which there are plenty) depends upon the audiences attention to the development of the characters and their investment in the characters’ story. I know that I’m being quite vague here, but that’s just because spoiling anything else, apart from the bare synopsis, would be a sheer disservice to this masterpiece. There were moments in this film, that without the aid of any sort of special effects, managed to simultaneously make me awestruck and moved to tears with what I was witnessing. The ending of this film is to die for, and I do not mean that lightly. It is perhaps, the very definition of masterful film making.
I would be gravely remiss if I didn’t talk about the musical score of this film, composed by the late and great James Horner. Emotional and Uplifting all at the same time, the score is almost like a character in itself and is one of my favourite film scores of all time.
In this era of comic-book and superhero films (which I’m immensely enjoying by the way), Unbreakable truly stands out as one of a kind. Using tropes that we normally would consider as clichés, Shyamalan managed to tell a very deep, thoughtful and devastatingly emotional tale of what it means to be a beacon of hero. Here’s to another such masterpiece from M. Night Shyamalan
Unbreakable, is without a doubt, apart from being my favourite M. Night Shyamalan film, my favorite superhero film of all time. (My favourite comic-book film though, still remains the first Iron Man film)
Rating: 10/10 ( A true masterpiece, and one you definitely should NOT miss)
Money Moment: “I think this is the part where we shake hands”