"Thus open the gates of paradise."

In this issue


06 Apr 2002

I was at a dinner party last week, and when the topic turned to movies, "Unbreakable" came up. None of those present had seen it, but many wanted to go. Someone asks if I've seen "Unbreakable". No, I say. And you know his previous film, "The Sixth Sense," I ask. Of course they do. I hated it. It had been done before, and better. Why should anyone waste their time retelling a story that's already been well-told? (Gus Van Sant, take note.)

But I went to see "Unbreakable" anyway. They got my $6.50, and in return I got to sit in the dark for about an hour and a half and watch a perfectly passable movie. No -- "passable" isn't the right word. "Puzzling" is better, but the puzzle is to find out what's wrong with the film. There is something, but what? Bruce Willis turns in a fine, muted performance as a man who miraculously survives a train crash. Samuel Jackson is mostly reasonable as the man who understands why. Spencer Clark is fine as "the boy". ("Widow? Orphan?" or "Sometimes I made him an idiot man-child. They hated that.") So if not the acting, then what?

The pacing is deliberate, and maybe a bit drawn-out, but it's not serious enough to warrant discussion. Or maybe it is. I know one person who thought it was far too slow and spent too much time developing characters and not enough time doing things. Well, if that's the worst you can say, then you're not doing so bad.

I think that leaves the writing.You know, this may be it, because when I come to think about the writing, I draw a great big blank. And yet there really was some writing in this film, I'm sure of it. You can't develop characters without it. But was there anything really original about the writing, something that made me sit up and say "Ooh, that was nice"... No, not really. It starts, develops, and ends, without a lot of distracting subplots or philosophizing. I have read comic books that were more thought provoking, and ultimately that's where the bar is for a film like this, and despite a valiant effort this film just doesn't clear it.

"Are You Unbreakable?" asks the movie poster. I blink at it for a moment. "No," I say. "Any other questions?" Apparently there are none, and so we can close the books on this one.

Related Sites

Unbreakable (Official Site)
Unbreakable (IMDB)