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Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
review by Ceri Jordan
After the worldwide success of The Sixth Sense, hopes were high for Shyamalan's second feature. Of course, it could never live up to the hype, and perhaps it was designed specifically not to. Unbreakable is one of those ideas that you either accept or you don't, and if you can't make the leap of faith necessary, then the film will leave you cold. But if you can...
Which, interestingly, reflects the leap of faith at the heart of the story. David Dunn (Bruce Willis, with shaved head), an ordinary-Joe security guard whose marriage is failing, who finds himself the only survivor of a horrific train crash. Walking away without so much as a bruise, he's contacted by Elijah, a dealer in comic book art (Samuel L. Jackson, sporting enough hair for both of them). Elijah has a brittle bone disease that means the slightest bump will cripple him, and has a theory that if people as vulnerable as him exist, then their opposites must also exist - people who are effectively superheroes. Dunn's miraculous survival suggests that he's one of them. But will he accept his true nature - and what should he do with it if he does?
Willis and Jackson carry the film, and the burden of persuading the audience, between them, and give probably the finest performances of their already respectable careers. Robin Wright Penn, as Dunn's skeptical wife, and Spencer Treat Clark as their son, offer able support.
Commendably, Shyamalan finds nothing campy about the idea of superhumans existing among us, and roots the story firmly in the real world. Dunn may be unbreakable, but he's far from invulnerable, as his attempts to patch up his marriage and make contact with his son prove. Even the most mythic moments of the film are deliberately underplayed; notably a near silent scene over the breakfast table where Dunn reveals his first act of heroism to his overawed son. This is science fiction as it should be - real people confronting real issues in a situation gently skewed towards the extraordinary. Though some people may find the deliberate pacing a little wearying, this is a thought-provoking and unmissable film.
And, of course, there's a twist...
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