Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Unbreakable (2000)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) was subjected to a life of loneliness and misery after an abnormal birth. Frightened at the sight of her broken baby, Elijah’s mother (Charlayne Woodard) learns the truth about Elijah’s crippling condition: Elijah suffers from a rare (and potentially fatal) degenerative bone disease. As a child, Elijah receives the nickname “Mr. Glass.” Elijah chooses a life of seclusion out of fear for more broken bones, but Elijah’s mother puts an end to her son’s self imposed exile from the outside world by promising him a new comic book every week. The catch? Elijah must go outside, and pick up the comic book under a park bench.

As an adult, Elijah owns and operates Limited Edition,  a gallery featuring comic book art. Out of paranoia and a devoted mission to locate his counterpart, Elijah embarks on a mission to find a real life superhero. Elijah’s search leads him to David Dunn (Bruce Willis), an ex football star, who chose a life as a security guard after a near fatal car accident in his twenties. David’s wife, Audrey (Robin Wright) and David’s son, Joesph (Joseph Treat Clark) have different reactions to Elijah’s beliefs of David being a superhero. As a young child, Joesph is awestruck at the possibility of his father being a real life superhero. On the flip side, Audrey believes Elijah is a lonely and bitter man, who views David as a reason to fill the many voids in his life.

David tries to balance a troubled relationship with Joesph, a broken marriage with Audrey, and the puzzling dilemma of being the sole survivor in a horrific train accident, while deciphering Elijah’s riddles about the supernatural and the unknown. David is left with two options during his journey towards the truth. He can ignore Elijah’s proclamations, or David can take a chance to test Elijha’s theories by assuming the identity of an anonymous crime fighter……..

When it comes to the acting department, the chemistry between Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis is the driving force, without a doubt. Character wise, they’re perfect foils for each other. Willis’ Dunn is this Average Joe, who’s content with his normal life as a security guard at a football stadium. But Jackson’s Elijah is this eccentric and jaded man, who pushes Dunn to go the extra mile, and find the answers to the curious questions that continue to plague his life. As far as the quality for Willis/Jackson collaborations go, I still believe we all witnessed the best from these two in Die Hard With A Vengeance, but the tandem of Elijah and David is a forced to be reckoned with.

So, is David Dunn a real life superhero? Well, through a serious of tests (including Joseph testing David’s limits on a bench press in the garage by adding more weights with each set) and teasing, we get the answer we’ve been waiting for towards the end of the film. Dunn takes a chance to test his powers by saving the victims of a home invasion. Although, David runs into a BIG problem, when he encounters his only true weakness: Water. David is drowning in the victim’s pool, but he’s rescued by the children at the last second. David returns to catch the killer in a chokehold. The killer struggles to break free, but David’s super strength is too much for him, and Dunn is able to kill the perpetrator……but it’s not over yet.

Dunn takes a trip to Elijah’s exhibit at Limited Edition. Here, David thanks Elijah for pushing him to realize the true potential of his powers. But Dunn uses a newfound power to unravel Elijah’s shocking secret. Unbeknownst to David, he possessed clairvoyant powers for many years. David accidentally discovered this gift by bumping into various criminals (David’s clairvoyant powers only work, if he touches the evildoer) at a train station. After shaking Elijah’s hand, David is able to see every little detail in Elijah’s dark past. Elijah is the one, who caused the train accident, and Elijah orchestrated and committed various acts of terrorism throughout the United States. Why? Because Elijah was trying to force David out of hiding. Playing the role of David’s real life adversary, Elijah believes his acts of terrorism are justified, because the hero needs a villain to feud against. Of course, David reports Elijah to the police, and Elijah is forced to live out the rest of his days in an institution for the criminally insane.

A great twist. Willis did a wonderful job of selling the heartbreak and devastation  after discovering the truth behind Elijah’s alter ego as a real villain, and Jackson’s delusional pleas towards Wills as he leaves Limited Edition with his back turned are executed to perfection. You really get the sense Mr. Glass believed in the justified morality of his crimes to lure David out into the open. It’s a great shocker, because you can see David wanted to believe in his friendship with Elijah, but he’s crushed after Elijah reveals himself as the culprit.

Unbreakable is an absorbing and mysterious thriller with a majestic sense of wonder, featuring a truly shocking finale that’s guaranteed to leave you speechless. On top of that, Unbreakable features an unconventional superhero tale, because Willis isn’t flying around and smashing buildings, while using a bunch of fancy gadgets to fight the bad guys, and he’s not spouting a bunch of random and crony one-liners in every other scene. No. Instead, you’re engrossed in the story of this ordinary man, who’s trying to figure out his purpose in life, and as the story unravels, a common man is thrust into a threatening life-or-death situation, where he’s forced to confront the possibility of possessing an extraordinary gift.

Although, I have to admit, with hindsight as my ally, Unbreakable is a bittersweet film for me. M. Night Shyamalan’s career took a noticeable nosedive after The Village. Yes, he had Signs after Unbreakable, but it’s kind of hard to ignore the abominable disasters that followed Signs. The Village, Lady In The Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth more recently. Shyamalan committed career suicide, and I think it’s safe to say he’s in a deep hole right now. Yeah, there’s always a chance he can dig himself out, but we’re talking about about a guy, who’s almost solely responsible for a plethora of widely panned train wrecks.

Also, Shyamalan is someone, who needs a leash. Having so much creative control isn’t a good thing for him, especially when you consider his awful habit/obsession of trying to deliver a SHOCKING twist, because nine times out of ten, the “twist” doesn’t live up to the enormous expectations, or the intended shocking finale is a laughable embarrassment (i.e. The Village, and in all seriousness, there aren’t enough words in the English language to describe my hatred for The Village). When you consider all the potential, watching an Unbreakable, Signs, or Sixth Sense is a big letdown, because I’m reminded of a man, who was on the right track to becoming the next big thing in Hollywood.

Rating: 8/10

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