Unbreakable DVD

They are the type of headlines that instantly grab your attention. You read them with morbid curiosity. Train derails, no survivors. Plane crashes on take-off. No survivors. Bus plunges off icy road. No survivors.

Then there’s that one headline. Subway crash kills 77, leaves one survivor. Man walks away from fatal plane crash.


Woman survives four-story leap in hotel fire with no broken bones. We think to ourselves, miracles do exist. What we never think is that the miracle is the person themselves.

unbreakable_dvdElijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) scours the headlines because he knows better. He understands that the person is the miracle, and looks endlessly to find that person. His wall is filled with newspaper clippings filled with disasters, both natural and manmade. Trapped inside a fragile body that can break like glass, Elijah is looking for his opposite.

He is looking for someone “Unbreakable.” After years of looking, Elijah finds him in Philadelphia security-guard David Dunn (Bruce Willis), the only survivor of a nasty train accident. Not only did Dunn survive the wreck, he walked away without a scratch. Elijah’s search is over. Now the real journey begins.

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, “Unbreakable” is a haunting tale of two totally opposite men who learn they share an uncommon bond. Like the secret of Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense,” that bond isn’t revealed until the final moments of “Unbreakable.” The director skillfully lays out the groundwork leading up to that moment, creating a complex, multi-layered plot that is as tightly wound as a spring.

Comparisons to “The Sixth Sense” are inevitable, and indeed Shyamalan visits some of the same themes. There is a father-son relationship similar to the one shared by Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment in “The Sixth Sense.” Supernatural events surround Willis, who uses his situation to save members of a family in peril.

Instead of pretending “The Sixth Sense” didn’t exist, Shyamalan embraces its influences. He works off of that film’s strengths to create an equally eerie tale. His deliberate pacing, forcing us to patiently wait as he plays his cards, creates an undercurrent of suspense that drives the film. Instead of quick cuts, he keeps his camera in one place, allowing the actors and dialogue to maintain the momentum.

Willis is exceptional as a disillusioned father who shares an apartment with his son and ex-wife, a beautifully understated Robin Wright Penn. Once a star athlete with a promising career, a car accident has forced him to become a security guard at the very stadium he once played in. Willis perfectly conveys the spirit of a man whose life didn’t turn out the way he imagined.

His character, David Dunn, becomes an instant celebrity when he emerges as the only survivor of the wreck. The moment where Dunn learns this, sitting in the hospital emergency room watching the only other survivor die in the next room, is one of the most unnerving things I’ve sat through this year.

Instead of finding himself lucky, Dunn begins to question his mortality. Why him? A note tucked under the windshield wiper of his truck peaks his interest. Has he ever been sick? Has he ever broken a bone? The note leads him to Elijah, a purveyor of comic book art, who runs an upscale gallery and shop. Elijah compares himself and Dunn to comic book characters, and suggests that Dunn might have special powers.

Dunn finds the suggestion absurd, yet the more he examines his past, the more he suspects that Elijah may be on to something. How this revelation affects Dunn, his family, and ultimately his future, make for riveting viewing.

Trapped under a mess of hair and a body twisted by fate, Jackson delivers a chilling performance. You really feel for his character, yet there is something about him that makes you hold back. Jackson shades the character with enough ambiguity so you’re never really sure what his real goal is. Does he plan to polarize his physical condition with the help of Dunn? Shyamalan keeps us guessing until the final moments.

The film finds its heart in the relationship between Dunn and his son Joseph, played with believable passion and concern by Spencer Treat Clark of “Gladiator.” The moment where Joseph attempts to test Elijah’s theory by shooting his father will leave you breathless and emotionally drained. The kid is so intense he scares you.

So does Shyamalan, who builds up the suspense to the point where it’s almost unbearable. The more Dunn explores his gift, the darker the film gets, and pretty soon it’s frightening. By the time Dunn becomes involved with a break-in killer, all of my fingernails were gone.

Shyamalan’s dialogue is very specific. He’s careful not to give away too much, yet wise enough to lay the groundwork for the final payoff. He creates characters that are interesting yet very common. That helps ground their incredible journey. You can relate to them, even when they become involved in incredible situations. You’re right there with Dunn as he wades through the masses at a train station, invisibly feeling their thoughts. You accept it because you accept Dunn.

Technically, “Unbreakable” is just as solid. The cinematography, music and editing all combine to fulfill Shyamalan’s vision. Each and every one is vital to the overall effect, which is one of the year’s most satisfying thrillers.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: 20/20

check.gif (406 bytes) 2.35:1 Widescreen

check.gif (406 bytes) 16:9 Enhanced

Outstanding digital transfer totally respects the craftsmanship of the film’s delicate cinematography. Filled with shadows and subdued colors, the transfer looks sensational. No noticeable artifacts or transfer problems. The flesh tones look amazingly real, and the color pallette, which is frosted over with a cobalt blue tint, holds up very nicely. No color fading or bleeding here. The blacks are hard core, and attention to detail is incredible. Depth of field is also strong, while edge enhancement is noticeable but hardly a major consideration. There is also one instance of grain, but under the circumstances it was acceptable.

HEARING: Excellent

check.gif (406 bytes) 5.1 Dolby Digital EX

check.gif (406 bytes) 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Spanish & French Language

Creepy 5.1 Dolby Digital EX track will drop you right into the middle of the action. Though hardly elaborate in its use of surround effects, the track features incredible ambient noise and musical cues that literally get under your skin. Front sound stage is alive with naturally mixed stereo sweeps and a strong, powerful dialogue mix. Front-to-rear spatial split is okay but not really a consideration except during the film’s more flashier moments. Rear speakers pump out a strong collection of data. Low ends are effective, especially during the film’s more explosive scenes, while middle and high ends purr with perfection. No noticeable hiss or distortion here. The overall aural experience is realistic and effectively subtle.

ORAL: Good

check.gif (406 bytes) Closed Captions in English for the Hard of Hearing

check.gif (406 bytes) Subtitles in Spanish

COORDINATION: Good

The two-disc set includes the film on one disc and all of the supplements on the second.

check.gif (406 bytes) A 15-minute “Behind the Scenes” featurette on the making of the film, with interviews with the cast and crew, plus some on-the-set footage. The interviews offer some insight, but the featurette doesn’t lend itself to anything more than the customary P.R. speeches.

check.gif (406 bytes) “From Comic Book to Super Hero” featurette that provides a 20-minute look at the folks who create the comic books that director Shyamalan used as reference points for “Unbreakable.” Most people won’t know who these folks are, but fans of comic books will appreciate the opportunity to spend a little time with “Dark Knight” creator Frank Miller, “Go Girl!” creator Trina Robins, artist Michael Chabbon and writers Will Eisner, Denny O’Neill, Scott McCloud, and Dave Gobban. Each and everyone is just as animated as their creations, and along with Samuel L. Jackson, share their love and passion with the medium.

check.gif (406 bytes) Seven deleted scenes that add up to almost 20 minutes. Director Shyamalan introduces each scene, which are complete edits or extensions of other scenes. It’s amazing that some of this stuff didn’t wind up in the final print, but after listening to the director’s reasoning, it’s also easy to understand why they were excised. I always appreciate the opportunity to see these cuts because they show how difficult it is to trim down a film.

check.gif (406 bytes) A storyboard-to-film comparison of the “Train Sequence” masquerading as a multi-angle feature. You can toggle back and forth from storyboard to film, but this isn’t really a multi-angle feature. The director provides optional commentary.

check.gif (406 bytes) A clip from one of Shyamalan’s early works, “Night’s First Fight.” Like the clip of another early film by the director on “The Sixth Sense” DVD, this is basically a moment of nostalgia for the director and nothing more.

check.gif (406 bytes) Production notes.

check.gif (406 bytes) Nicely animated menus that capture the flavor of the film.

check.gif (406 bytes) No theatrical trailers.

check.gif (406 bytes) A collectible booklet with fascinating facts about the film and deleted scenes.

PROGNOSIS: Good

check.gif (406 bytes) This would have been an excellent DVD with a commentary track by the director-writer.

VITALS:

check.gif (406 bytes) $29.95/Rated PG-13/107 Minutes/Color/2-Discs/Keepcase

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: UNBREAKABLE

BIRTH DATE: 2000

HMO: Touchstone Home Video



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