The concept behind Unbreakable is brilliant, as is so often the case with M. Night Shyamalan films, whereas the execution is so mediocre it’s tough to believe. Shyamalan seems to fall into that distinctive decade of films in the 90s where movies where striving for realism and grittiness in their looks. Most of the time, however, they were simply dark, bleak, and uninteresting to look at. It’s disappointing that probably the most unique take on the superhero genre in cinema falls so flat due to stylistic choices. It’s hard to believe that it would not have looked dated even in 2000, when it came out.
Unbreakable is set against the background of comics, as evidenced by statistics of comic book readership during the opening of the film. All this is interesting, and indeed some of the dialogue about comics and their tropes is very enjoyable (and falls well in a great tradition of comic book dialogue in movies). This can only serve to appease comic book fans, however. Mr Glass’s character’s obsession with comics will be misunderstood by most viewers, and the fact that the film itself treats it as psychopathic is unfortunate.
Bruce Willis plays David Dunn, a man who miraculously survives a train crash without a mark on him. It is then that he is approached by the owner of a comic book art gallery, portrayed Mr. Price, otherwise know as Mr. Glass, portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson. He, after a life-long search for a real superhero, becomes convinced that he has found him in Willis’s character, who for the most part want nothing to do with it. The majority of the film, therefore, concerns the skeptical Dunn going back and forth on his superhumanity.
As a study of a genre, the film definitely has strong points. Unfortunately, it simply fails as good cinema.