Bruce Willis re-teams with 'Sixth Sense' writer-director M. Night Shyamalan for this tense, atmospheric thriller. David Dunn (Willis) is the sole survivor of one of the worst train crashes in US history. Walking away without a scratch on him, Dunn is unable to explain why he should have been spared; but then, when he meets the mysterious Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), he is encouraged to begin asking himself important questions. Why has he never fallen sick? Why has he never been injured? What purpose could there be to his special gifts?
In Unbreakable, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan reunites with Sixth Sense
star Bruce Willis, comes up with another story of everyday folk baffled by the supernatural (or at least unknown-to-science) and returns to his home town, presenting Philadelphia as a wintry haunt of the bizarre yet transcendent. This time around, Willis (in earnest, agonised, frankly bald Twelve Monkeys
mode) has the paranormal abilities, and a superbly un-typecast Samuel L. Jackson is the investigator who digs into someone else's strange life to prompt startling revelations about his own. David Dunn (Willis), an ex-jock security guard with a failing marriage (to Robin Wright Penn), is the stunned sole survivor of a train derailment. Approached by Elijah Price (Jackson), a dealer in comic book art who suffers from a rare brittle bone syndrome, Dunn comes to wonder whether Price's theory that he has superhuman abilities might not hold water. Dunn's young son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) encourages him to test his powers and the primal scene of Superman bouncing a bullet off his chest is rewritten as an amazing kitchen confrontation when Joseph pulls the family gun on Dad in a desperate attempt to convince him that he really is unbreakable (surely, "Invulnerable" would have been a more apt title). Half-convinced he is the real-world equivalent of a superhero, Dunn commences a never-ending battle against crime but learns a hard lesson about balancing forces in the universe.
Throughout, the film refers to comic-book imagery--with Dunn's security guard slicker coming to look like a cape, and Price's gallery taking on elements of a Batcave-like lair--while the lectures on artwork and symbolism feed back into the plot. The last act offers a terrific suspense-thriller scene, which (like the similar family-saving at the end of The Sixth Sense) is a self-contained sub-plot that slingshots a twist ending that may have been obvious all along. Some viewers might find the stately solemnity with which Shyamalan approaches a subject usually treated with colourful silliness offputting, but Unbreakable wins points for not playing safe and proves that both Willis and Jackson, too often cast in lazy blockbusters, have the acting chops to enter the heart of darkness. --Kim Newman