HOLLYWOOD’S latest golden goose has laid another golden egg.
In Unbreakable, Bruce Willis once again collaborates with writer/director M Night Shyamalan, the man behind The Sixth Sense, on another intelligent, almost Hitchcockian, thriller, which keeps you guessing while speaking in riddles throughout.
Willis is David Dunn, the security guard who survives a horrific train crash in which every other passenger is killed. The tragedy makes him a temporary celebrity and brings him to the attention of Elijah Price (Samuel L Jackson, teaming with Willis for the first time since Die Hard With a Vengeance), a mysterious, crippled comic art dealer.
Elijah, afflicted with a debilitating bone disease, has led a solitary existence all his life, finding solace in comic books and their otherworldly superheroes. He believes David possesses the same peculiar powers, and that is why he survived the rail disaster: he is ‘unbreakable’.
To say any more about Shyamalan’s brain-teaser of a script would be to give away the twists, turns and red herrings of the plot. Like The Sixth Sense before it, Unbreakable possesses an intrinsic, seductive mood but is an altogether different, sometimes far darker, film.
Possessing elements of Fallen and The Dead Zone, Unbreakable leans not so much towards the supernatural like Shyamalan’s first blockbuster, but instead towards something from the Hitchcock stable – all thrills, suspense and surprises.
Those expecting a similar animal to The Sixth Sense will naturally be disappointed, but those prepared to endure Unbreakable‘s slower pace will be rewarded by a thought-provoking, cerebral tale which breaks the mould of other, tepid Hollywood fare.
Unbreakable is that rare creature which keeps you thinking throughout. It never lets up and, like the Hitchcock movies of old, prompts you into frantic leap-frogging in an attempt to stay ahead of the plot and figure out Willis’s secret.
Both Willis and Jackson put in fine performances, Jackson particularly playing against type as the quiet, anguished Elijah who feels so out of place in a world overflowing with able-bodied, normal people.
Willis, playing down his screen hero persona, nevertheless enjoys stepping into the skin of a mediocre, run-of-the-mill guy – a thousand miles from the comic book heroes he played in the Die Hard franchise that made his name.
If Unbreakable has a fault, it is that it trades on the same explosive finale that made The Sixth Sense a hit. While it is not necessarily a Shyamalan trademark, the sting-in-the-tail ending may result in more audiences feeling disappointed in the movie than buying into the concept.
Like Guy Ritchie, who made the same film twice with Lock, Stock… and Snatch, Shyamalan may have to seek new thrills when it comes to lensing his next project. I venture he’ll find that stinging an audience twice will have them reaching for their movie Calamine lotion.