Unbreakable is for you if you enjoy a good suspense film and want a DVD you will enjoy during many viewings

I have been watching and enjoying films for over forty years now. Because of this I find it rare for a film to surprise me. Unbreakable did just that. I did not see the ending coming, at least not during my first viewing. After this initial watching I could see how well the clues where planted.

Unbreakable concerns a middle-aged man David Dunn (Bruce Willis). A security guard for a university, he drifts through his life with the ever present feeling that is life is unfulfilled. Trapped in a marriage that is on the brink of dissolution, he finds himself on a train bound for home after a trip to find a job in New York so he can move away from his family. Tragically, the train derails. All souls on board are lost with the miraculous exception of David. Rather than finding joy or relief in his survival David is plunged into ever-deeper despair. While attending the memorial services for those killed in the accident that spared David, he finds a cryptic note on his windshield, ‘Have you ever been ill". David traces the note to an upscale art gallery that specializes in comic book art. There he finds Elijah Price (Sammuel L. Jackson). Elijah suffers from a rare genetic disorder known as Ostiogenesis Inperfecta. This disease leaves his bones as brittle as glass. The hypothesis of Elijah is that if he is on one end of the human spectrum, brittle, there must be an individual that is on the other end, unbreakable. At first David is reluctant to accept this, especially that he might be that super human person. As a backdrop to Unbreakable is the tense situation between David and his wife (Robin Wright Penn). Living under the same roof yet apart their son is trapped between them. Needing a father that is a hero the boy paves the way for his father to accept the fact that there is something different, more than a father, a hero. The story is a perfect merger of the comic book form and reality. It is a modern myth that can make us look at the world in a way we had not considered since those days of our youth when Superman seemed possible.

A vital ingredient to such a tale is the caliber of the acting. Fortunately, Unbreakable is blessed with the best. Willis has gone through several incarnations in his career. The comic actor, the adventure hero and now an actor of incredible depth, capable of emotional performances rarely seen. There is a scene at the beginning of the film where David tries in vain to pick up a pretty young woman. After the inevitable rejection Willis rests his head of the train’s window. What the audience sees is a man not just sad for the moment of rejection but one in true despair over his life. A small moment yet it conveys so very much about the character, far more than page after page of dialogue ever could. Jackson is also at his best here. He portrays Elijah as a regal, aloof person. His disease has distanced him from the rest of mankind and rather than be broken by it he embraces it. Every movement is deliberate, every sentence calculated to place him above others. Penn is great as the suffering wife. Deep down she wants the marriage to work. There is sadness in her character that is moving. The real breakout actor here is Spencer Treat Clark as the son. In a touching moment when he and his mother go to the hospital to pick up David he places the father’s hand in the mother. The boy walks ahead of his parents, a few steps later the hands part. This movie is a collection of moments like this, a little slice of life, a touch of reality to counter balance the comic book theme.

Over the years I have seen films by a lot of directors. In the suspense genre most build the story one scene at a time. With M. Night Shyamalan he weaves the plot each thread connecting the scenes until the final unexpected ending unfolds. While it would be unfair to disclose the ending I can say that Unbreakable can be watched many times after the ending is known and you will find additional clues with each viewing. Shyamalan has crafted a film that combines the comic book format with reality in a way I have not seen before.

For example, many scenes are blocked in such a way as to emulate the panels of a comic book. These are interlaced with full shots to provide the audience with the feel of a comic tale being told with real people. There is also the director’s trademark use of colors. Like the red clue in the Sixth Sense, the main characters here have signature colors, much like used in comics. David is identified by green as Elijah is with the regal color purple. Shyamalan also makes excellent use of the film’s score to set the perfect mood for each scene. In one of the bonus features Willis states that this is the only director he was able to fully release control to, high praise from an actor that has worked with so many of the greats.

The Unbreakable special edition disc is split into two discs. The first is the movie, the second contains the extras. Unbreakable is presented with both Dolby 5.1 and DTS six channel sound tracks. Again, I did prefer the DTS for the fuller back fill it provided. The audio is also THX certified. The video is anamorphic 2.35:1, crisp, clear and free of any compression defect. The real test of the video is in the numerous darker scenes where the color balance remains perfect. The bonus disc is very well done. There is a behind the scenes featurette that is broken down into the various aspects of film making. There is also a discussion of the comic book hero featuring several of the more notable comic creators. If you enjoy a good suspense film and want a DVD you will enjoy during many viewings, Unbreakable one is for you.

Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com

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