If there are people who are so acutely sensitive that their bones can break during childbirth, are there people on the other end of that spectrum who can survive an otherwise unsurvivable catastrophe? Director M. Night Shyamalan, fresh off his huge success with that ghost story, "The Sixth Sense", here employs the story dynamics of a comic strip about such a spectrum and gives us David Dunn (Bruce Willis) who emerges from a devastating train wreck as the sole survivor.
His comic strip counterpart, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), the owner and curator of a comic strip art gallery, has a particular interest in his survival since he's sensitive to broken bones since childbirth and has been searching for the one man who is his opposite on the breakability curve. His comic strip insight is that such a person must exist and he's devoted his life to finding him, studying all wrecks and looking for the news phrase, "Only sole survivor" to lead him to his quarry. At last, he has found David Dunn.
Now, David Dunn, a security guard, is a morose sort of chap, rather unhappy with his lot in life even though he's never had a sick day, a stubbed toe, an injury of any kind. His focus seems to be, rather, on the estrangement that has developed with his wife, Audrey (Robin Wright) and the threat to his family which includes his young son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark). Of course, when he meets Elijah Price, his focus begins to shift. Price presents him with the notion that he is his opposite and this makes him a hero. Not like a fireman who rescues a baby but rather in the mold of a Superman or Batman. (We have to keep our concepts clear, here).
Slowly, the realization about what his health and accident record might mean creeps into his mundane, bound-to-reality consciousness. This is good because, before he can expect to be able to use his special "powers", he must train himself through acceptance and belief in his higher destiny.
After "The Sixth Sense", director M. Night Shyamalan is expected to create films with other-worldly mystery and mind-bending atmosphere. He lives up to the expectation with "Unbreakable" even though the precepts of the story line are dissimilar. But are the supernatural underpinnings of ghosts and comic strips so dissimilar? In any case, the idea of this film is presented in a similarly moody way. The evocativeness of it is achieved, in part, by slow pacing, character withdrawal, slow realizations, slow adjustments to them, and a cleverly dramatic way of withholding information from the audience (which is why we can't go any further in describing the storyline).
The effect this has on Bruce Willis' acting energy makes us wonder what happened to the real actor. It's not until his character breaks away from his bonds to reality and embraces the idea that he is unbreakable that the actor we all know and love flashes on again. This is not necessarily a weakness in the film but it is an effect we need to accept if we're to go with the supernatural notion of superhumanity presented. We think this explains the less than positive reaction from the reviewing community, but we slightly differ. Bottom line, we feel, it is worth seeing and sustains the interest we have in what Shyamalan might do next.
Rated K, for Kryptonlikeable.
Estimated cost: $75,000,000. Projected U.S. Boxoffice: $100,000,000.