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January 5, 2010

Film Fatale: Unbreakable

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Written by: The Movie Lady
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Unbreakable was released in 2000 to poor box office sales. Although it went on to do well in DVD sales it never really overcame its flat opening. Originally there had been a lot of talk about a sequel but as the box office sales came out and the reviews were so so that idea was quickly scrapped. What also hurt the film was The Sixth Sense. Many people felt that the movies were similar, which they are, only Unbreakable had a weak ending compared with The Sixth Sense. Both are extremely quiet, slowly paced movies. Both exercise the use of color. Willis is assigned green, Jackson is purple, and the public wrong doers are set apart by bright red or orange clothing, just as red is used in The Sixth Sense to direct your attention to something important. While I really liked The Sixth Sense and generally like most of M. Night Shyamalan’s films, this one didn’t really do anything for me.

On the contrary, while Unbreakable is 3 minutes shorter than The Sixth Sense it feels much much longer. A quiet movie without a quick pace works wonderfully for a thriller/supernatural movie. This movie, is too drawn out. Multiple times I found myself thinking “He’s STILL doing….” Things take way too long in this movie. Like when the family is sitting for breakfast and the camera is focused on their kid. He takes a carton of orange juice and pours it into the glass and stares at it for a bit, then the camera angle switches to his point of view as his father pushes a newspaper next to the OJ into his field of vision. Ok, so the OJ is where the kid’s looking which serves as a reference point for Willis to slide this important newspaper article forward so the kid will read it. I get it, but it just takes too damn long. I think “Why am I watching this kid pour OJ?”

Now if this movie were a thriller that slow pacing would work wonderfully. Shyamalan was disappointed that Touchstone Pictures marketed the movie as a psychological thriller instead of as a comic book movie. I don’t think marketing would have saved this film. It’s shot in the tone of a thriller, with nothing to thrill you. No major villains to focus on or action until mostly the end, and even then it’s not so much action as a couple of very short bits of fighting. And thank goodness they didn’t market it as a comic book movie because I feel fans of the genre might have been disappointed. Everyone is different, but I personally believe a big element of the appeal of comics, and something people look forward to in film adaptations of comics, is the otherworldly, the special, the not everyday. While this movie manages to capture that to a slight degree it doesn’t go all the way. Shyamalan is simply too subtle to do superhero.

-Begin spoilers

Originally Shyamalan was going to follow a traditional story arc of birth, action, final villain battle but was so intrigued by origin stories that that is the direction he decided to go in. The film opens with the birth of Mr. Glass. It isn’t immediately clear that anything is wrong until we discover that the baby’s arms and legs are broken. This scene is horrifying to me just imagining if that was my own child how upset I would be, as the mother in the film indeed is horrified and begins to cry.

Bruce Willis’ story opens with the train wreck which he miraculously survives. He wakes up in a hospital with a doctor staring at him. After some routine questions Willis eventually asks the doctor why he is looking at him this way. The doctor says (as we are shown a waiting room full of the family members of the people who died in the wreck) “There are two reasons why I’m looking at you like this. One, because it seems in a few minutes that you will officially be the only surviver of this train wreck (the other survivor is flat lining). And two, because you didn’t break one bone… You don’t have a scratch on you.” I think this is the coolest part of the film. I couldn’t imagine how I would feel being the only survivor of a train wreck and reuniting with my family as all the other families look on. This is the otherworldly I was talking about. Later it becomes a little more subtle (a la M. Night Shyamalan). He can’t remember the last time he was ever ill or was injured. He’s working out when he realizes his son has added too much weight but was still able to lift the dumbbell. He continues to add weight beyond what he should be able to bench press but you can see the added difficulty it takes him with his face turning red and the deep gasping breaths he takes. So he is strong, but not super human strong. It’s a little too gray and boring for me. It’s an interesting story, but not interesting enough to carry a whole movie.

The second most interesting part of the film is when it is revealed that Samuel L. Jackson is the villain, Mr. Glass, and was behind terroristic acts to find Bruce Willis. He reasoned that if there was someone like him, fragile, with weak bones, there must be someone on the opposite side who is strong and not easily hurt. This is an M. Night Shyamalan ending. One you might not see coming. Even though I consider the ending to be one of the most interesting parts, I still don’t think it’s very good.

Why is Jackson a villain? Yes he commits those acts of terror to find Willis the person who was sent here to protect people, but this seems almost a heroic pursuit, only found through criminal means. Shouldn’t he now continue trying to do good? He says he should have known he was a villain because kids used to call him Mr. Glass. So because of that he becomes a villain? What some kids said? In the final moments of the film, text across the screen explains that Mr. Glass was sent to an institution for the criminally insane. So he was just crazy and that’s it? Possibly he was crazy because of the pains he endured from his disease? I don’t understand the motivation which makes it pretty boring to me.

-End spoilers

All in all I would say if you like other M. Night Shyamalan films you might like this one. But if you’re going into it thinking you’re going to see a bad ass comic book movie, or even just a regular comic book movie, look elsewhere.

The Movie Lady



  1. I really like this movie, and after Signs it’s my favorite M. Night Shyamalan film.

    My favorite scene is where Mr. Glass is talking to a potential buyer about purchasing an original page from a comic. The man says he wants to give it to his kid and Mr. Glass rebukes him, stating that that comic book page is a work of art and should be treated as such; it’s not some child’s toy.

    I loved that.

  2. Kristin

    For some reason I really didn’t like this movie. Unfortunately it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, so I don’t remember what my issues were exactly.

  3. Eli

    I also like this movie, though I only know one other person who does, aside from Andy that is. I love the attitude Mr. Glass has toward the comics. How he viewed life, and how it should unfold, from a perspective of someone reading a comic and trying to figure the next step in the plot.

  4. InfiniteSpeech

    thought I found the move pretty good I do think the ending was weak but like Andy, the scene with the comic page was one of my favs in the movie!

  5. billy

    Never saw it, but always wanted to. 🙁

  6. Jeff Jackson

    I love this movie. Shyamalan plays with the genre of comics books here in a surprising way. I think it’s a little ahead of its time. If it came out now, while super-heroes are “in,” it might have done a little better. I think the marketing was perfect because I didn’t know it was going to be about comics until I started watching it. I think you’re right in that people compared this (and all of Shyamalan’s films) to the Sixth Sense, and because of that, he’s never quite captured the same amount of popularity. I, for one, am a huge fan of his.

  7. InfiniteSpeech

    hey Billy we have the technology that makes it possible for you to see the movie…so turn that frown upside down! lol

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