An Unbelievable Waste
M. Night Shyamalan. What can I say about him eh? I'll tell you what I can say about him: He's a cock. Sixth Sense? Shite. Rumbled it after 30 minutes. "Ooh, sensational narative use of colour!!!". Bollocks. Kid's stuff. Signs? Don't make me laugh. Wank. The Village? Embarassing. Lady in the Water? The most self-indulgent waste of 90 minutes it's ever been my misfortune to sit through. A comprehensive analysis I feel you'll agree.
As with all rules though, there is an exception. The rule that Mr. Shyamalan only makes shite films is not the only rule to which today's subject is an exception. The rule that Samuel L Jackson is a mercenary cunt who'll appear in any old wank as long as he gets paid is flouted here also. It probably says something about Bruce Willis too, although quite what I'm not sure. I'm a bit of a Brucie fan to be honest.
I am, of course, whittering on about Unbreakable. I'm pretty surprised at how few people I talk to have seen this. I'm even more surprised at how few of the people who have seen it rate it. Well, you're all idiots.
To give a bit of background to a 5 year old movie: The Sixth Sense broke Mr. shyamalan onto the mainstream scene, and was a rock solid hit. People thought they'd never seen anything like it, and the "twist in the tale" ending amazed an audience who had largely never bothered to watch a Hitchcock movie, and therefore thought this was some new invention. Whatever the merits of that film, it gave Shyamalan, as writer and director, carte clanche to make whatever the hell he liked next. Much to my personal surprise, Unbreakable is what he came up with. If this is what Shyamalan can produce when the pressure's off and people just chuck money at him, I should be at the front of th queue pelting him with fivers.
The synopsis: A comics fan (Jackson) with crippling osteoporosis tracks down a security guard (Willis) he believes is his polar opposite. Where Jackson's character's bones break with the slightest impact, he believes Willis's character cannot be hurt or fall ill. Willis initially derides him as insane, pointing to the car accident that ended his professional football career as evidence to the contary. However, it emerges that Willis faked his injuries after the crash to get out of playing football to salvage his relationship with his then girlfirend, now wife and mother of his child. Willis slowly comes to believe Jackson's outrageous claims, and falls under the spell of Jackson's pleas for him to become the hero to the weak that Jackson has always read about in his comics.
Quite frankl, it sounds ludicrous, but it works. It works amazingly well. Regular readers will know what a comic book and super-hero movie fan I am, and in some ways this is the best super-hero movie ever made. The holy grail for a comics fan is a realistic super-hero story. This is, of course, an inherant contradiction there. However, this movie moves so close to the dividing line betwen the every day and the fantastic that with a small suspension of disbelief you can really believe in the amazing things Willis's character discovers about himself. There is a particularly affecting scene where Willis enlists the help of his previously alienated son to test the amount he can bench-press. It never goes beyond the realms of the mundane (there is no throwing of cars or leaping tall buildings) but the father and son's mutual amazement as they search their basement for more weight to add to the dumb-bell is a joy to watch.
Shyamalan also coaxes great performances out of two traditionally hit and miss leads. Jackson is bitter, brooding, depressed, but also charmingly hopefull in his belief that there must be someone stronger, better, faster than himself. Willis is convincingly bemused. Haunted by a decision he made for the good of his family years ago, he now struggles to look at them without remembering what he gave up many years ago. while reluctant to believe what Jackson would have him believe about himself, he warms to the idea as a chance to make up for glories missed, and to let go of the bitterness that poisons his relationships with those closest to him.
Visually the film is also a treat. Shades of grey follow Willis's mood perfectly throughout the film, and Shyamalan's much touted use of colour doesn't seem as obvious and grating here. The scene at Grand Central Station is a particularly striking example of this. Never is the potential to sensationalise given in to. One of the climatic scenes, with Willis's character taking up his role as a crime fighter and defender of the helpless is beautifully low key. There is no mask or cape for Willis, merely a grey raincoat with the reassuring type "SECURITY" across the back.
Of course, there is the obligatory Shyamalan attempt at a twist at the end, but it'l largely unimportant, and it wouldn't make alot of difference to your enjoyment of the film if you turned it off five minutes before the end and missed it altogether. It's not a key plot point, and doesn't suddenly throw everything into focus like the twists in The Village and Sixth Sense were supposed to.
This is a great glimpse of a fantastic writing and directing talent, backed up by some excellent performances from Hollywood heavyweights on top form. Unbreakable is of course available on DVD from just about anywhere, and also available in about 2-3 hours with a decent broadband connection. Get it on your list, and don't forget to leave some comments if you've seen it already or you watch it as a result of this post. I'm always interested to ignore what you think.