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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Unbreakable (2000)



Reviews and Comments

The rules for watching Unbreakable are simple. Don't go in expecting this reteaming of Bruce Willis and director M. Night Shyamalan to measure up to the brilliant and exciting thriller, The Sixth Sense, and you'll find Unbreakable one of the most exciting and satisfying thrillers of the year. Go in expecting The Sixth Sense all over again, and unrealistic expectations will cheat you out of a rare and wonderful evening of entertainment.

The similarity with The Sixth Sense is unfortunate, because Unbreakable is original enough and different enough to stand on its own. The structure is similar: a careful, gentle escalation of creepiness coupled with the characters' gradual discovery of possibly supernatural occurrences. A powerful climax is followed by an amazing surprise ending that was apparent all along but never picked up on; it triggers the audience to rethink everything that's come before. Unbreakable's surprise ending is not quite as earth-shattering as The Sixth Sense's, and the film's end is too quick to follow, but I'm not damning with faint praise. The movie's impact is powerful, and even now, days after seeing the movie, I'm still reflecting back on the film and marveling at how Shyamalan gets away with hiding all the answers in plain sight and still surprising an audience already on its guard.

But while the films may follow a similar structure and the tone of the films strike many of the same notes, Unbreakable's story covers new ground. No film like this has ever been made before. Unfortunately, I can't talk much about it, because a meaningful discussion would require revealing the film's secrets, and I refuse to give anything away.

The best compliment I can give Unbreakable is that it made me crave more like no film I remember seeing for quite some time. Now convinced that Shyamalan can indeed make lightning strike twice, I tried to think of things I wouldn't do to persuade him and Willis to collaborate on a half dozen more movies made in the same style (but with stories that continue to cover new ground), and I was having trouble.