For this month’s blind spot review I decided to check a film by my least favorite director, M Night Shyamalan off the list, Unbreakable. This is the film that everyone said was ‘one of the good Shyamalan films’. I had my doubts as I don’t like Signs which most seem to love but I figured it was worth a shot. Now that I’ve seen it I think it is an okay dopey thriller but not much more than that.
This post will have spoilers as it is impossible to talk about the pros and cons of this movie without talking about key plot points and another Shyamalanian twist!
Unbreakable stars Samuel L Jackson as Elijah Glass a man with a debilitating bone disease. His bones are very fragile and will shatter easily. He just might be breakable….Then we have Bruce Willis as David Dunn, a security guard who starts to wonder about his own strengths after he is the only survivor of a train crash. He just might be unbreakable…(subtlety is not Shyamalan’s strength).
So, the train crashes at the beginning of the film and it seems completely unlikely that all 131 passengers would die on this train. This is not a plane where that would make more sense. I’ve never heard of a train crash ever killing all the passengers. Nevertheless, you have to go with that (hey at least it’s not killer grass like in a later Shyamalan film…)
Elijah invites David to meet with him and he suggests that David is a superhero like we see in the comic books. David dismisses the idea but then realizes he has never been sick his entire life (something it seems like you would realize before this) and that he can lift 350 lbs on a bench press (something I would think you’d realize as a former athlete).
David also learns he has one weakness which is water (the aliens in Signs and now this. What is it with Shyamalan and water?) and begins to hone his super skills, which includes the power of learning what crimes people have committed by touching them. I’m not sure this skill makes much sense or would be very helpful when we all break speeding limits and other unlawful behavior. How does the skill decide what is a ‘crime’ and what isn’t? It could be self defense after all or an accident or any number of murky crimes?
Nevertheless, in one scene he goes to a train terminal where an unusual number of criminals seem to be gathering, but he follows a janitor who has murdered parents and then gone back to work for some strange reason with the children still handcuffed to the bathroom wall. Doesn’t that seem strange that he would go back to work when friends, family, anyone could come and free the girls, see the murder? It makes no sense that such a man would leave the girls like that to go to work and even less to return back to the scene of the crime. The only reason is for the script to provide him with a confrontation with David.
This fight is David’s first heroic act and soon after we get the big reveal (it’s a Shyamalan movie after all. Of course there is a big twist!). It turns out, Elijah is the one who caused the train wreck in the first place, so he could find David. This really makes no sense. In the world of comic books there are handfuls of supers for millions of normal people. The likelihood that a super would be on that train at that moment makes no sense. If there was some proof that Elijah had been following David for years but needed a final conclusive evidence than that might make sense but like I said a train crash would rarely have such casualties or produce such definitive proof.
The point of the story is that now Elijah has his purpose as the super villain against David’s superhero. Ok. I can buy that but it is the road to getting there that doesn’t really work.
That said, if you turn off your brain it’s a well made decent movie. The problem is Shyamalan thinks he is being so clever, so it’s a little hard to accept as a dopey fun thriller. His camera work is very distracting with odd angles and movement for no discernible reason. We also get the M Night cameo that made me roll my eyes.
The acting is pretty good from both Willis, Jackson and Robin Wright as David’s wife. It is also better paced than many other Shyamalan films. I was never really bored and it’s a pretty creative twist on the comic book genre. Unfortunately I appreciate it more for the potential than the end result.
Overall Grade- C+ Shyamalan Grade- A