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The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: Unbreakable

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Unbreakable”
Rated PG-13
2000

Fresh off “The Sixth Sense, “ M. Night Shyamalan started the Zeroes as a premier auteur, but he ended them as a pretentious amateur.

Sequel talk for 2000’s “Unbreakable” often sparks because this unconventionally contemplative comic-book film is Shyamalan’s only idea worth continuing.

“Unbreakable” patiently lets character arcs trump blockbuster beats, muted grays bloom into color at perfect moments and thrillingly unpredictable camerawork play into payoffs. (A scene entirely in a turned-off TV’s convex reflection sets up one character’s dangerously skewed reality.)

David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is a security guard on the ropes with his wife (Robin Wright Penn) and son (Spencer Treat Clark). After David is the only survivor of a train wreck, he’s summoned by Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) — a brittle-boned comics collector convinced David is a superhero.

David doesn’t thrill at new skills like Peter Parker, but faces the terror of resurrecting something he’s repressed for love and comfort. (In intimate scenes, the Dunns recognize how little they know of each other or how much they’ve chosen to forget.)

Shyamalan also generates brilliantly unbearable suspense during a sequence when David tests his alleged powers — a short-film triumph on its own, during which a pool feels like a storm-ravaged ocean.

“Unbreakable” ultimately questions society’s maddening desire to lift up heroes in lieu of our own shortcomings: What does Elijah want David to validate about his existence? In that sense, it almost plays now like an anticipatory 9/11 metaphor.

Regardless of its reading, “Unbreakable” is Shyamalan’s visionary masterpiece.

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7 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: Unbreakable”

  1. [...] problem wasn’t immediately apparent. The next film, “Unbreakable,” made less than $300 million at the box office, but it still received some positive critical [...]

  2. SHEA says:

    Unbreakable is a movie you can watch over & over & still notice or hear things you didn’t before. This is one of theose unforgettable movies because it stood out because it wasn’t predictable like other movies.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nick Rogers, The Film Yap. The Film Yap said: Go to a place where people are. You won't have to wait very long. http://bit.ly/b2KLFi #bestfilmsofthedecade #heroesofthezeroes [...]

  4. Nick Rogers says:

    Bobby: It’s as contemplative and deliberate as "The Sixth Sense," but it lacks the supernatural subtext, which probably turned quite a few people off. Plus, I think that most people bring up M. Night Shyamalan’s various and sundry bombs now when they think of his name, and they use "The Sixth Sense" as the comparison, not this (his best film). Hope you’re happy.

    Michael: Echoing Joe’s sentiment, we value diverse opinions and appreciate your readership and comments. I think everybody’s got movies they hated the first time about which they’ve been curious for a second viewing. I was that way with the comparatively lighter "Clueless," "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," "The Cable Guy" and "The Big Lebowski" (although that one was after a 12-hour workday at a midnight show). Should you check this one out, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

    Joe: You’re dead on with those epilogues. They’re rickety, but they’re always rickety for fictional characters unless it’s a comedy.

  5. Joe Shearer says:

    Michael, differing opinions are celebrated at The Yap! My feelings definitely fall with Nick’s though. I’d go so far as to say it’s Shyamalan’s best film (of course it’s only this and The Sixth Sense even in the conversation), but I’ll admit it’s not for everyone. I remember when I saw this one I had no idea what it was about other than Bruce Willis was a train crash survivor, and I wasn’t all that excited to see it. Once it was over I was REALLY excited about it, though.

    One thing: I do hate the "where are they now" abrupt ending with the subtitles telling you about what happened to the characters. Very few fictional films can pull that type of ending off, and it felt lazy to me.

  6. Michael Donley says:

    I agree with about 90% of the reviews on "The Yap," but I didn’t like this movie at all. I only saw it once. This review may inspire me to watch it again.

  7. Bobby McFerrin says:

    Bobby enjoyed this film. It’s funny that this was his best film, in my opinion, other than Sixth Sense, but it’s about the last one anyone ever thinks of. Why is that?