Remember when Bruce Willis would put some effort into his movie roles? Me either, but that’s probably because around the time I was born he’d stopped giving a shit about which films he appeared in. Unbreakable is hailed as a piece of film in his latter-day career where he seemingly gives a damn about what he’s doing. It’s not an awful action sequel like Precious Cargo or The Expendables or G.I. Joe Retribution or Red. You get the idea, I only mentioned so many since I’ve had to slog through them all and this will be the only chance I ever have to mention a single one of them. Unbreakable then is a step away from the action genre for Willis, and he plants himself firmly into the drab and clunky world that this superhero thriller has to offer.
Coming off of the success of previous collaboration The Sixth Sense, the pairing of Willis and director M. Night Shyamalan should’ve been a considerably promising one. Willis stars as David Dunn, a man who finds out he is quite literally unbreakable after being the sole survivor of a train crash. This sudden realisation brings about strains and struggles to his family life, along with catching the attention of one Mr. Glass, otherwise known as Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson). The cat and mouse games begin, with Willis looking for the meaning behind his unique condition, all while Price convinces him that he is in fact a superhero.
It’s such a strange plot, because for a good hour or so nothing remarkable really happens. Dunn slowly realises he’s far more powerful than he could’ve ever imagined but these scenes are drawn out in some of the blandest and tiring formulaic scenes imaginable. The chemistry between Willis and Jackson isn’t quite there either, a real shame since the two can be incredible performers when they put the effort in. Jackson gets along just fine, cruising along at the speed you’d expect from a man whose bones are as fragile as glass. An unfortunately forgettable Samuel L. Jackson performance, but that’s no surprise given the masterpieces that litter his filmography.
My main problem with Unbreakable is that it sets itself up to be a slow burning thriller, but then doesn’t give itself enough time to explain all of its thrilling elements. Shyamalan’s direction ranges from solid enough to hold its own to confusingly pedantic. It’s a shame he focuses in on all of these minute details rather than the plot as a whole, especially when he really doesn’t have time to do so. His films quite often have some large twist that sets the balance of the film and everything else we have seen. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel quite right in the case of Unbreakable.
Solid enough to warrant a watch, but there’s nothing Unbreakable does that really stands out as anything more than peculiar or slightly creative. Little to no innovation, nor anything that would warrant it being a terrible movie. A real mediocre affair that still manages to stand out from the rest of the superhero film crowd for simply being about a man coming to terms with his powers, rather than using them.