Reviews: Unbreakable

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Great ideas, flawed execution
I know a lot of people like this film and I agree it brings up a lot of interesting ideas, but it also has some serious problems that kept me from enjoying it. I'm more than happy to discuss it, but I have no interest in watching it a second time. I'm not saying this is a bad movie, there's plenty to like about it and I would love to see more movies that touch on the ideas presented here. These are just all the caveats I would've liked to know before going in and would tell other people before recommending the film to them.

First of all, the plot is too slow paced and has too little energy. Not unbearably so, but whereas in The Sixth Sense and Signs the slow dialogue delivery was used to build tension toward the mystery, and we were still given some exciting moments leading up to the climax, here I felt like it was taking forever for the characters to do and say the simplest things. There was absolutely no action until the climax, and even that was surprisingly low energy. For a story largely about a person becoming a superhero, it would've made for a better transition into the role if he faced more experiences that led him towards it instead of being talked into it. This all would be fine if I cared more about the characters, but that leads into the second issue.

Besides Elijah, the characters just aren't very interesting. I liked the family in Film/Signs, but here David is bland and his family exists for the sake of him having a family. There's a subplot about whether David and his wife will get divorced, and I just didn't care. I also thought they made some rather dumb decisions. David pretended to be injured and gave up football just because his girlfriend (now wife) was prejudiced against the sport. Their son is so obsessed with the notion that David might have superpowers he tried to shoot him to prove he was indestructible, and the parents move past the issue with shocking ease even though they handled the situation properly and were clearly disturbed by the experience. Despite the film being mostly conversations, there's also very little character development over time.

I also took issue with the evolution of David's My Significance Sense Is Tingling. By the end he was having visions of people's crimes.
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The Most Realistic Superhero Anything Ever
This movie is the most realistic imagining of superheroes ever. I literally mean it when I say that.

V for Vendetta due to being an extremely close second in terms of realism, and Hancock do to being the same medium and milieu will be used as scales to compare realism.

The origin of the super powers:
  • Hancock: Never really explained.
  • V For Vendetta: A "criminal" subject to cruel human experimentation that ended up giving enhancements somehow.
  • Unbreakable: By analogy from Elijah's genetic mutation that makes him weak, David has a genetic mutation that makes him strong and very resilient.

The super powers themselves:

The establishment of the conflict of the story:
  • Hancock: He can't fight crime well yet has super powers.
  • V For Vendetta: Following a nuclear war, the UK is being run by an oppressive far-right government that can only be countered by a certain anarchist with a plan.
  • Unbreakable: Elijah is trying to find a super-powered hero as an analogy to his crippling disability, and thus because a super-powered person is also the hero, the disabled person must be the villain by analogy. Using that, Elijah arranges accidents to find this super person, eventually finding David.

As you can see, Unbreakable is a much more realistic story than even V for Vendetta because of the way the super powers are introduced and the establishment of the conflict of the story. V for Vendetta tips the Sliding Scale Of Realistic Versus Fantastic by establishment of a completely different milieu than the current societal situation going on now, and Hancock tips Mohs Scale Of Sci Fi Hardness with his explicitly physics-breaking powers. Thus, Unbreakable is the most realistic primarily because of how it sets everything up and presents it, yet still remains in the Super Hero genre by virtue of having a super-powered person who fights crime.
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A Rewarding Slow Burn. One of The Best Superhero Films Ever.

This is very much a slow burn kind of thriller. What amazes me most is how wonderfully "Unbreakable" subverts and plays with superhero movie tropes...when really the more modern era of superhero films was still up ahead. ("X-Men" came out the same year. You could trace back the modern superhero film to "Superman: The Movie" but "X-Men" brought it back once again.)

This is very much a slow burn sort of film. It would be even more ideal to have absolutely no knowledge of what to expect and just watch it. Though, if you're on here. You probably already have a pretty good idea on what it is. In that case, stop reading and go watch it. Seriously. It's a superb film. This Shaymalan at his best (alongside with "The Sixth Sense"). The film has the touch and sensibility of a more artistic, more indie Shaymalan. His script, raw and aided with the magnificent score of James Newton Howard make for a movie that's not as flashy as any of its more traditional peers.

Verisimilitude is the word of the day here and this film really gets it. It builds itself up from the ground up with the most subtle of mythologies, all the way up to its final twist ending. And what an ending it is. Definitely worth your time. Go check it out.

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