Picks and Pans Review: Unbreakable
Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) has cast himself as a suspected drug dealer in Unbreakable, which is fitting since he's peddling both uppers and downers in his latest suspense thriller. The highs come from the movie's taut script, deliberate visual style and willingness to grapple with the big question of why any of us are put here on earth. The lows? Unbreakable is so unrelievedly morose you keep wishing someone would sneak up and goose the characters just to liven things up.
Willis plays doleful David Dunn, a security guard in Philadelphia who is the sole survivor of a train wreck that leaves 124 others dead. Numb, but none the worse for the accident, he returns home to the shabby row house he shares with his estranged wife (Penn) and young son (Clark). News of Dunn's miraculous escape prompts a note from a comic-books enthusiast (Jackson) who, upon meeting Dunn, proposes a supernatural explanation for his resiliency. Though initially skeptical, Dunn is intrigued enough by the theory to break out of his melancholy and embark on a voyage of self-discovery.
As Dunn's Everyman tries to uncover his true purpose in life, Unbreakable veers between silly and profound, zigzagging from overintellectualized twaddle about super-heroes to a moving depiction of Dunn's journey to find himself. It's a search that will resonate with any viewer who has ever aspired to accomplishing more in life than just waking up day after day. While the movie's symbolism is obvious (not for nothing does Willis's rain poncho look like a cape), it is effective, adding texture and meaning and guaranteeing that you will be mulling over Unbreakable days after leaving the theater.
Willis, in top form, gives an exacting performance as a man ill at ease with himself and his family until he finds his mission. Jackson brings snap to his scenes, but his role is little more than a conceit. (PG-13)
Bottom Line: Handled with admirable care
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