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UNBREAKABLE Rated: 12

The Movie

If you’re counting similarities between this subdued, subtle and spellbinding fantasy and M Night Shyamalan’s masterful ghost story The Sixth Sense, then there are dozens and dozens on narrative, technical and visual levels. But, this is a far less audience-pleasing film, with a challengingly low-key approach to Bruce Willis’s Everyman discovering his heroic purpose in life.

It’s a deliberate attempt to make the extraordinary ordinary and this near-arthouse film is rich in emotional power, intelligence and downbeat atmosphere, with excellent characterizations from Willis and very breakable ‘mentor’ Sam Jackson. It has its flaws (the final scene, for me, almost undermines the entire story), 4 stars - Damn Good Discbut it has considerable understated power too.

The Extras

Despite the best transfer you’ll ever see or hear, this is disappointing in some respects. It’s a far less well-rounded and illuminating package than the wonderfully conceived Sixth Sense DVD (despite an extra disc), since many of the key components of the film have been squeezed into one 15-minute Featurette, rather than isolated separately.

That said, interviews with Shyamalan and various technical personnel add to a greater understanding of the film’s aims, such as the use of juxtaposing colours, inverted images and symmetrical framing, as well as the many long-takes used to draw us into the story. Frankly, the movie demands a more detailed overview, but there’s a number of useful insights, particularly the writer-director’s observation that the whole picture is the first act of other ‘superhero’ films.

Shyamalan is also a film-maker who has embraced the DVD format for its ability to retrieve Deleted Scenes and he individually introduces half-a-dozen excised sequences. Two or three seem redundant (particularly the additional show of strength), yet a couple are on a par with anything in the film. The most powerful is a deeply moving discussion with a priest, which subverts our expectations with his perspective on Willis’s miraculous survival. The other key sequence is an affecting and empathetic flashback to Sam Jackson’s youth, cushioning his seat on a fairground ride, yet still damaging his fragile body.

The 18 minute Comic Books and Super Heroes examines comic book mythology with some famous contributors and has little to do with the film (aside from the reality angle). More pertinent is the multi-angle version of the stunning ‘Train Station’ sequence, which has a variety of audio-visual options that demonstrate both James Newton Howard’s evocative scoring and how close the storyboards were to the finished product.

Enigmatic Trailer too, plus a snippet of 3 stars - Worth a watchShyamalan’s rather less impressive early work.

Jason Caro

An arthouse
superhero film?

Credits
Unbreakable - Order this at Black StarBlackstar

Cast
Bruce Willis
Samuel L Jackson
Director
M Night Shyamalan
Year • 2000
Duration • 102 mins
Screen Ratio • 2.35:1
Anamorphic • Yes
Audio • Dolby Digital 5.1
Chapters • 28
Languages • English, French, Italian
Subtitles • English, French, Italian, English for Hearing Impaired
UK Release •
October 29
Distributor •
Buena Vista

 

Shyamalan (and his stars Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson) on reuniting:
I look back at other directors that I have admired and you see collaborations that started to establish a pattern of film-making... I felt it was an important thing for us to come together again, to make a different movie, but still satisfy the audience in different and exciting ways and make it very original.

 

Highlight

Chapter 23
An unforgettable rising long-take, as a new hero is born.

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from Ultimate DVD #23

Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction

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