'Unbreakable' is a 2000 release by M. Night Shyamalan. Like all his other celluloid offerings, Shyamalan brings his fetish for the supernatural to this movie as well. Unbreakable, with an almost negligible amount of action and flashy special effects, isn’t your average superhero movie. The movie is set in a painfully realistic setting, with mundane, middle class lives that reflect the audience’s own. This carefully constructed setting helps to keep the audience skeptical till the end.
David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is the sole survivor of a train wreck. Right after this incident, he is contacted by Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) who has suffered his entire life from a Type I osteogenesis imperfecta. Being an overactive brain confined in a fragile body, Elijah desperately tries to find an explanation for his near pitiful existence. He believes that David might mark the other end of the spectrum of humanity, one that stretches from the most inferior to the most superior of the human race. This proposition is as unfathomable for the audience as it is for David, who is a security guard at a campus stadium. His choice of profession is, like Elijah says, a subconscious effort at finding a job closer to the superhero description. His workplace, the campus football stadium, mocks his past footballer glory. Where’s the superhero, with his easy good looks and super strength?
The relationships depicted compel the audience into reflecting upon their own personal lives. Be it Dunn’s shattered relationship with his wife, or each of the character’s struggle to find their own purpose in life; Shyamalan shows no qualms about showing it just like it is.
For most of the movie, Dunn’s mundane existence has the audience struggling to place a finger on his superhero personality. Though highly suspicious of Elijah and his motives, David tests the waters of possibility that Elijah’s theories have opened up to him. His hesitation tells of the man yearning to leave behind the average tag. Each minute of the movie is pregnant with expectation, with audiences half expecting Dunn to rip his shirt and fly away in a flashy superhero costume. The setting is so ordinary; the audience’s ears perk up at the slightest reference to the supernatural. One such instance is Dunn’s yellow security rain poncho, which is a play on the stereotypical superhero.
Unable to decide if his abilities are a gift or a curse, Dunn’s shoulders stoop with the burden of his responsibilities. Though the film did not do too well at the box office, it has established itself as a cult classic. Unbreakable has been subject to a volley of comparisons to The Sixth Sense with the latter emerging as the crowd favourite. But despite its looming shadow, Unbreakable manages to hold its ground.