The Beginning (Unbreakable, 2000)

unbreakable_posterAfter the wild success of the Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan re-teamed with Bruce Willis for another film. Of course, everyone wanted to know what he would do next.

Bruce Willis is David Dunn, a regular guy with a wife and kid whose life is forever changed when he is the lone survivor of a massive commuter train wreck.  But it is not that he simply lived…he walked away without a scratch.

A stranger, Elijah Price enters his world who is convinced that Dunn is a uniquely gifted man. He pushes David to look to his past, where David realizes he rarely has been sick, save one event. But aside from a near drowning, he has never broken a bone and can be very hard to hurt in general. Price convinces the skeptical David that he has amazing powers…he is strong, semi-impervious and also has a… sixth sense, if you will, that allows him to get a sense of a person when he touches them.

He starts to use this to stop criminals, trusting Elijah. The film juxtaposes the two men.  While Willis’ Dunn is seemingly indestructible, Elijah suffers from a unique condition in which his bones are severely fragile. So fragile that the most minor of pressure can shatter a bone.  But where his body is in constant danger of destruction, his intellect is great.  His power is the strength of his mind.

This works really well.  You see how Elijah is able to push David to become a believer in his situation, to embrace his power, in spite of his early skepticism. This also brings he and his son closer, as his son is excited by the idea that his father is a super-hero.

I really appreciate how Willis’ performance grounds the film.  You find yourself unsure if you can trust your eyes. But you cannot help but hope it is true…that David is not being manipulated into buying into a delusion. And Elijah Price’s certainly helps the viewer.

The movie does have a twist, but in comparison to the Sixth Sense, it seems a bit less…drastic. It is absolutely a game changer, as the film is set up as a realistic super-hero origin story.  This is one of Shyamalan’s best films.  Willis and Jackson deliver terrific performances in a compelling story.

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