Unbreakable is easily my favorite film from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan, who has had, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating, frustrating, and fantastic careers that any filmmaker has ever had. After taking the world by storm in the late summer of 1999 with his superb ghost movie, The Sixth Sense, he unleashed his masterpiece, Unbreakable, at Thanksgiving the following year, and while it left many people cold and confused, I was completely floored by this ambitious film when I first saw it in theaters, and over the years, I’ve found myself revisiting it quite often. From the cool-blue-gray visual aesthetic that Shyamalan and cinematographer Eduardo Serra used to convey the murky moral underpinnings of the crafty and suspenseful narrative to the magnificent score by James Newton Howard, everything in Unbreakable felt like it was from another world yet strangely familiar.
And I can’t help but feel that the film contains two of the best performances that Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson have ever dished out; the two of them have great on-screen chemistry, and I’d love to see them paired up in something worthwhile and fun. There’s a sense of genuine danger in this film, with a home invasion sequence shot and cut in an imaginative way so as not to wallow in the sequences’ implied level of heavy violence, while notions of vigilantism and revenge are explored in a thoughtful manner. This is easily one of the most unique superhero films ever made, paying subtle and sly tribute to a genre that was just about to explode on screen, and subverting expectations at nearly every turn, with a great sense of humanism to match its otherworldly ideas and provocations.
Review by Nick Clement