In the world of
Andrew Goletz and Erich Schoeneweiss
Andrew: I’ve decided that there
is no way I can do this film justice by reviewing it without giving away plot
points that may be considered spoilers. You know from the trailers that Bruce
Willis plays a man who is the only survivor of a major train wreck. In fact, he
doesn’t even have a scratch on him. You also know that Samuel Jackson plays a
strange looking man who poses the question, ‘are your ready for the truth?’
If you are, continue reading after this paragraph. If you aren’t, get off the
Internet and go and see this film. Bruce Willis gives the performance of his
career and Samuel Jackson is as better than he has ever been. It’s a daring,
compelling film and my favorite movie of the year. I’d go further and say
it’s the best film I’ve seen since ‘The Matrix’. Go to the film and see
for yourself. Or continue reading and hear me out.
Erich: I strongly disagree with
You’re probably all surprised now, aren’t you? OK, sarcasm aside, this movie was actually long and
boring…that is until the last twenty minutes.
So let’s let Andrew spoil everything and than I’ll jump back in.
Andrew: Sigh. Boring? I can tell
where this is going.
Um…sorry to have jumped back in so soon; however, I just finished
reading the rest of Andrew’s review and he’s basically written the
Unbreakable For Dummies treatment. So
I’ll give you my spoiler free review for those of you who have not yet seen
was ready to walk out of this film after the first hour.
It plods along at a snails pace. The
clues and answers to just what is it that kept Bruce Willis alive in the train
wreck are extremely slow in developing. It
is not a good sign when audiences are paying attention to camera movement and
other technical elements instead of story.
Willis was commendable, but his performance in Sixth Sense was more complete.
His character here was very passive.
He is sort of just floundering through life, and when he makes an attempt
to break from his normal patterns he does so with very little conviction.
Sam L. Jackson is more bizarre looking than anything. Is it just me, or
is he working so much these days that he’s just sort of playing himself now in
different costumes? There was very little here that differentiated his
performance from the multitude of other films I’ve seen him in lately. Robin
Wright Penn was wasted. She has
nothing to do but basically stand in doorways, so you can’t blame Julian Moore
for passing this up to make Hannibal.
So what about the big surprise
ending we’ve heard so much about? Yes,
it did save the movie for me. The
last twenty minutes keep me from giving this film a completely negative review. Based on the ending, I actually liked the movie’s story
(Note: Not the actual movie); however, most of America will not.
Those outside of a certain geeky social class (to reveal that would be in
essence to give away the soul of the film) will most likely find the ending
cheesy…even laughable. I am
curious to see what happens next. There
are rumors that this is the first installment in a planned trilogy and the
ground work is there for the story to continue.
I do hope if it does, it does so at a slightly faster pace.
all, I admire M. Night for the testicular fortitude to make this film.
If not for the enormous success of The Sixth Sense he would have had a
hard time getting a studio to bite on this story; however, Unbreakable is a step
backwards for him. It is not as
engaging, emotionally or intellectually as The Sixth Sense was, and in many ways
it alienates the audience. I
don’t foresee large box office numbers, or major awards for this film.
Once the word is out I believe it’s audience will start to shrink
considerably, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it sees a drop of over 50% in box
office going into it’s second weekend.
have a few other notes after Andrew’s spoiler ridden review for those of you
who continue on…
Last Spoiler Warning)
Andrew: “Unbreakable’ is the
best comic book movie ever made. ‘X-Men’ and ‘The Crow’ were faithful
adaptations of comic books and ‘The Matrix’ is in essence, a true comic book
film with all of the classic elements. But none of those films have been as
complete as this one. They either stay too close to the source material with the
fancy costumes or freakish villains (Batman, X-Men, The Crow) or don’t claim
to represent comics at all (The Matrix). From the opening credits, where the
audience is given several facts and statistics about comic books,
‘Unbreakable’ tips its hat as to what it’s going to be about and more
importantly, that it is going to handle the subject respectfully and with a
maturity not seen before.
Willis stars as David Dunne (the alliterative name is a nod to classic comic
book characters like Peter Parker, Reed Richards, Bruce Banner and more), a
security guard in Philadelphia with a son, Jeremy (Spencer Treat Clark), and a
marriage on the rocks. Dunne still lives with his wife, (played by Robin Wright
Penn) but they keep separate bedrooms and Dunne has been actively searching for
work in New York.
first introduced to Dunne as he is returning from an interview in NYC on a
train. A young woman sits next to him and immediately Dunne takes off his
wedding ring and begins to flirt, shamelessly. It’s Shyamalan’s talent as a
director that he can make something as simple as flirting compelling to watch.
Another director and actor may have done the scene too forceful or too subdued.
Willis and Shyamalan handle it perfectly. Shortly thereafter, the train grinds,
the lights flicker and we’re drawn into the next scene: a local Philadelphia
hospital. Dunne is being told that he is the only survivor of a train wreck
which has taken over 100 lives and that more miraculously, he doesn’t have a
scratch on him.
the same point, we’re introduced to Elijah Price, played by Samuel Jackson.
He’s been afflicted with a rare genetic disorder, which causes his bones to be
extremely brittle. He was born with broken bones and has suffered over 50 breaks
in his life. Teased as a young boy and given the moniker ‘Mr.Glass’ (for
being so frail), Price shelters himself from the outside world until his mother
brings him out. She tells Elijah that she has a present waiting for him on a
bench across the street, but that he has to go retrieve it himself. He does and
opens the package to reveal a comic book.
mother tells Elijah that there will be a new comic waiting for him on that bench
every day and all he needs to do is go outside to get it. Comic books offer
Elijah an escape that many can relate to. Filled with stories of fantastic
characters and situations, comics can offer one an escape that books don’t
provide. They’re both a written and visual medium.
grows up to become the head of an art gallery specializing in original comic
art. He’s stronger, more self-assured, but something is missing in his life.
One of the central themes in comic books is the yin/yang relationship between
characters in the stories. Elijah believes that if he is cursed with being so
fragile, that there must be someone out there who is his opposite; a person of
great strength and power. He has spent his life searching the news for stories
of disasters, and in particular, for a disaster in which a person miraculously
and Price’s lives begin to slowly converge. Dunne is left a message on his
car: ‘how many days in your life have you been sick’ which makes him
question whether he does indeed have some ability. Early on, Dunne meets Price
for the first time in Price’s art gallery where Elijah explains his theory to
him. Dunne is skeptical, but the two have a connection that can’t be disputed.
As David goes about his life, Elijah is there almost at every turn, making him
see beyond what is ‘normal’ and forcing him to come to grips with who is
brilliant scene has David and Jeremy in the basement of their home. David is
lifting weights and his son is pushing him to the limits, adding more weight.
This moment of self discovery, the origin, if you will, is wonderful. You can
see the joy and awe in both David and Jeremy as he pushes himself beyond any
deals with each of these moments with precision and realism. He isn’t trying
to give the audience a roller-coaster thrill ride of an action movie. The best
comic books don’t contain mindless fight scenes. The best comic books are
those handled by writers who know how to slow the pacing and let the action and
excitement come from quiet realizations rather than throwing a car across the
street or fighting a strange super-villain. Shyamalan knows this. You aren’t
on the edge of your seat, heart racing because of the non-stop action. You’re
sitting back in your seat, eyes wide, watching the genesis of a true hero. This
is Joseph Campbell’s archetype of a hero’s journey, not Joel Schumaker’s
shameless over the top camp.
of the classic elements of a comic are here: the unwilling hero, the young eager
sidekick and the mysterious person who seems to hold the answers to all.
Shyamalan takes his time with each discovery. His gift as a film-maker and story
teller are evident here. Don’t just watch David during the familiar hospital
scene. Listen to the conversation with the doctor but look in the foreground at
the man dying before your eyes. Every
scene has relevance to the next. Each word of dialogue is a piece of the puzzle.
You don’t want to miss anything. The film is neither fast paced or slow paced,
it’s steady paced, like reading a good comic book. Shyamalan propels you from
one panel to the next. It may not have the blowout action, but you can’t wait
to ‘turn the page’.
Willis gives the best performance of his career. Russell Crowe is deserving of
an Oscar nomination for his work in ‘Gladiator’, but he may not get one
because the Academy doesn’t like ‘action movies’. Willis may lose out
because of he’s stereotyped as being a one note, action hero. More than
‘Pulp Fiction’ or ’12 Monkeys’ or even ‘The Sixth Sense’, Bruce
gives a performance that is perfect for the character. There isn’t one scene
where he holds back or goes over the top, he hits everything just right, and for
that he deserves a nomination.
Jackson also wonderful as Elijah. Jackson is great in just about any role that
he’s in, but he sees born to play this role. I can’t imagine anyone else as
Elijah, just as I can’t see anyone other than Willis as Dunne. Robin Wright is
less annoying than usual and Shyamalan gets another great performance out of a
young actor with Stuart.
movie is so much more than I could even begin to write about here. The review is
already longer than usual and to go into every brilliant, minute detail would
ruin the experience for you. Suffice to say, the mysteries unravel in a steady
motion until the ‘big payoff’. The ending may not be as ‘shocking’ as
the one in ‘The Sixth Sense’ but in a lot of ways, it’s even better. When
you leave the theater, you know this is ‘the way it was suppose to end’.
With ‘Unbreakable’, Shyamalan has created a new type of comic book
hero and possibly bridged the gap between comic book fan and comic book cynic.
is the first movie in a long time to live up to its pre-release hype. It’s a
movie that I hope will inspire and ‘wow’ and lead to a better sensibility in
regards to comic books and the stories within. It’s flawless. It’s the best
picture of the year.
Now that you know this is a comic book film, I would like to say that I
do agree with Andrew in his assessment that this is a great, if not the best,
comic book movie ever; HOWEVER, in spirit only.
It encompasses all the classic elements of the superhero comic, and there
is a point in the movie where the light switch went off in my head and I pieced
everything together. So while I
loved this film from a personal, comic book fan boy mentality, I can not in good
faith give this film a great review. Due
to the negativity being a comic book fan often encapsulates, it’s a joy to see
a movie such as Unbreakable, in which comic books are not used for cheap laughs,
but are seen as a true art form. I
simply wish the film had been more entertaining.
Andrew: 4 Griffins (out of 4)
Note) If you like this movie, do yourself a favor and go to the phone book and
look up a local comic book store. Find it, go there and browse through the
racks. You may be surprised as to what you find there. Like a good book or video
store, a good comic store will have something for everyone: mystery, crime,
adventure, romance, fantasy, children and of course superhero themes. You’re
cheating yourself if you don’t bother to look.
Copyright©2000 GrayHaven Magazine and contributors