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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> December 2000 >> Unbreakable
It's unreasonable to expect lightning to strike twice. Some people have pushed their luck and seen it pay off. Consider Frank Darabont, whose Shawshank Redemption and Green Mile were quite similar and both quite succesful. Is it fair to ask writer- director M. Night Shyamalan to repeat the success of The Sixth Sense? Is there a problem with him going to the well twice? I'm sorry to report that Unbreakable feels like the practice run for Sixth Sense. If they'd been reversed, people would still be as in awe of Shyamalan, and Sixth Sense would feel like the fruition of talent instead of the withering. The production, despite the return of much of the crew, isn't as solid, although the cast is fine.
Plotwise, Unbreakable bears a lot of similarity to Sixth Sense. The same type of moments happen at the same points in the plot. The difference is that Shyamalan is now working very strictly within a genre, although not one with which the average movie-goer (including myself) is well versed. Taking the movie for a comic-book premise, it plays very well. Since one of the characters is aware of how comic book plots are expected to unfold, it's a bit like Scream, but without so much satire. Unbreakable lacks some of the dramatic punch of its predecessor, and shows a remarkably different visual sensibility. Cinematographer Tak Fujimoto did not return, but I think his style could've been more appropriate to this material than Eduardo Serra's.
Unbreakable is at its most interesting when Samuel L. Jackson is on screen. It is the nature of his type of character to be more interesting than anyone else in the film. Jackson and Bruce Willis have been co-stars before, as in Die Hard 3. The intensity and newness of Jackson's character takes the focus off of Willis's terse protagonist and eerily familiar son. If there had already been a character like him in Sixth Sense, we'd know a little of what to expect, but he's out of the blue here.
I would like to call special attention to Robin Wright's performance. I can hardly believe that this is The Princess Bride herself! She makes Audrey look appropriately agonized for her situation, and carries some excellent scenes where David gives her almost nothing for input.