Last year's mega-successful "The Sixth Sense" might have been the best and worst thing ever to happen to director M. Night Shyamalan.
His latest film, "Unbreakable," which he wrote, produced and directed, will undoubtedly be compared to "Sense" in every possible way. So, to jump on the bandwagon, is "Unbreakable" better than "Sense"? The answer would have to be an ambiguous yes and no.
"Unbreakable" is best experienced rather than explained in a few paragraphs. The first scene finds main character David Dunn (Bruce Willis) surviving a violent train wreck unscathed, while every other passenger dies. The only explanation for this extraordinary incident, Dunn finds, is in the severely handicapped Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a mysterious comic-book enthusiast who seems to have a certain connection to Dunn.
"Unbreakable" is a better movie than "Sense" while Dunn, and the audience, is oblivious to this big secret, which is really not as big a mystery as one might think. Careful attention to the film would give away most everything in the first 15 minutes.
Up until the film's big revelation, Shyamalan shows off his developing skills as a director, utilizing tricky long hand-held shots and unique points of view to keep things fresh. Using light and darkness as virtual conflicting characters in the film, he employs so much symbolism and metaphor that his past English teachers would be proud.
Willis, despite being in a different movie and playing a different character, pretty much uses the same Bruce-like acting skills as he did in "Sense": doing as little as possible. "Unbreakable" also has a young actor to pick up his slack in those scenes which call for emotion. Jackson, on the other hand, overacts in another role that calls for it. His scenes with Willis are extremely off-putting at times, due to their contrasting acting styles.
But Shyamalan is undoubtedly the one running the show. His carte blanche was almost deadly to the overall quality of the film. Many scenes become slow due to an occasionally spotty script and an absence of editing.
While "Sense" was a pretty good movie with an excellent ending, "Unbreakable" is a great movie with a very bad ending.
The movie's final 15 minutes, and especially its final scene, don't really fit with the rest of the film. Maybe the setup was so promising that Shyamalan could not have delivered an ending to satisfy any viewer. Or maybe he wants to save some action for the next two films in this proposed trilogy.
Either way, after the final credits roll, viewers will be left wanting more from this obviously talented filmmaker.
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