In which Gerry Hayes feels a strong urge to break something…
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn.
Written by M. Night Shyamalan.
Right, let’s get this out of the way first: I liked The Sixth Sense. There… happy? I thought it was a, mostly, well constructed and filmed movie with a nice surprise ending. Lots of people agree. That’s all cool.
M. Night Shyamalan seems to think this makes him the King Of The Twist however, and he’s been pegging surprises onto the ends of, otherwise mediocre, films ever since. I could do a series of this column on Shyamalan’s films (and I might) but in the meantime Unbreakable is a reasonable example of what I mean.
Full disclosure: I admit I was momentarily fooled by the twist in Unbreakable. By fooled, I mean that, for a moment, I thought that a ‘clever’ twist made this a good film. For the briefest of seconds, at the end of the film, I thought “hmmmm, not bad”. But then I realised it was bad. I realised that, for the last hour and a half, I’d been bored and annoyed by this film – and it’s not easy to accomplish bored and annoyed at the same time. A twist-ending does not a good film make. This film has a twist ending. It is not a good film.
There may be spoilers hereafter, if ‘spoilers’ can really be applied.
Willis is David Dunn, a brooding, grumpy security guard. As he’s trying to cheat on his wife with a pretty girl, the train he’s on crashes. Everybody dead. Except him.
Then Sam Jackson turns up – dressed mainly as a pimp – playing Elijah Price. Pity poor Elihah as he’s got osteogenesis smurgleflump or something and it makes his bones all brittle – like one of those dog-turds that’s gone white and dry in the sun. One double-take and Elijah’s neck could snap like a twig with brittle-twig disease. The cruel kids in school called him Mr. Glass and used to kick him in the arse just to hear his coccyx snap. He’s also a comic-geek – come on Elijah, surely you can do something to stop getting beat up.
Elijah starts bothering David because he reckons his survival in the train-crash means he’s a superhero. His theory is that if he (Elijah) can be born so fragile, it stands to reason that the exact opposite – an unbreakable person – would also be born to balance things. It seems a poorly thought-out theory to me – if one person is born with a hump, another isn’t born with a massive concave dent in his back – but Elijah’s pretty happy with it.
The joke’s on me though, as it turns out that Elijah’s right and David is superman. He can lift heavy weights and rebond with his wife (Wright-Penn) and son. He never gets a cold and can tell, psychically, when people are naughty. But for the outside-underpants, David is a living, breathing comic-book superhero. OK, he can’t run really fast like The Flash, in fact he moves pretty slowly everywhere. And he’s not all stretchy like Reed Richards. He doesn’t turn green/grey and he’s not even a snappy dresser like unambiguous, right-wing nut-job, Mr. A. Plus, for some bizarre reason, Elijah reckons that water is like Kryptonite to David. Water? She-Hulk wept.
All told, David’s a pretty piss-poor superhero and I found his hero’s journey to be tedious and dull. I didn’t care about him at all. He annoyed me considerably, to be honest. Elijah was, at least, a little more interesting but it was far from enough to sustain me through 100-odd minutes.
And on that, here is my Unbreakable breakdown:
100 minutes of tedium.
1 minute of ‘Oooh, didn’t see that coming – maybe it wasn’t so bad after all’.
9 years of kicking myself for being duped, even momentarily, and of stopping strangers in the street to rail against Unbreakable.
Read more I Sat Through That? right here.