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Unbreakable (2000) – DVD Review

Unbreakable DVD cover


Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Directed by:
Starring: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard


  • Deleted scenes
  • Making-of featurette
  • Comic Book documentary hosted by Samuel L. Jackson
  • Multi-angle presentation of train station sequence
  • Excerpt from early Shyamalan film

Released by: Walt Disney Video
Region: 1
Rating: PG-13
Anamorphic: Widescreen 2.35:1

My Advice: Own It.

[ad#longpost]Where to start with Unbreakable? Never have I known of a film that more polarized viewers into love it/hate it camps. Shyamalan proves that his success with Sixth Sense was no fluke, and Unbreakable puts his eye for visuals and hand for storytelling on stunning display. With the film, Shyamalan explores the notion of a super-hero, leaning heavily on the kinds of notions put forth by Joseph Campbell in his archetypal mythology studies, and walks away with what is, at least in this reviewers’ opinion, the finest example of the “comic-book movie” ever to grace the big screen.

Right up front, let’s clear the air. There is a script, widely circulated on the Web prior to the film’s release, that contains a different ending sequence, a few moments of the film that were changed during shooting. Those few moments are responsible for no small number of people that ended up annoyed with the movie, though I think that does the movie a disservice (after all, without the script, people would have been much less likely to find the new ending as “horrific” as they did). In all honesty, Unbreakable‘s ending pulls up short of true brilliance in favor of a healthy dose of “let’s make sure the audience gets it.” Unfortunately, the rest of the movie was such that if they were “getting it” up until the ending, they didn’t need the help. And those that weren’t getting it up to the ending, weren’t going to get it at all.

Part of the fault for the film’s mixed reception lies with the marketing, which painted an image in trailers and TV spots of a quasi-action film, with a hero that couldn’t be harmed learning to use his abilities for good. However, the movie is much more a character-driven piece, spending long sequences exploring the ramifications of power and responsibility, the idea of regret and the damage it does, and building up the character of David Dunn (Bruce Willis) from a dejected, stagnating security guard, to a man with a higher purpose in life. It is the performance of Willis and the other two principles (Jackson and Wright) that really make this film sing and dance.

The DVD treatment of the film is certainly pretty, but pretty is as pretty does. The nice slipcase and postcard-sized Alex Ross concept sketches don’t make up for some of the glaring oversights in extras. Ostensibly a “Vista Series” DVD, whatever that’s supposed to be worth, nobody could be bothered to go find Willis or Shyamalan or Jackson for a commentary track? Or even a Joseph Campbell scholar to talk about archetypal heroes, and how Shyamalan’s film follows the pattern set before Beowulf and followed through Luke Skywalker? Come on people, get to work.

The second disc extras are OK, though the making-of featurette is the same 12-15 minute fare that has become the obligatory extra (and let me just say this to the DVD producers of the world: it’s necessary, but not sufficient). The gem of the collection is the documentary on comic books themselves, hosted by Samuel L. Jackson and including discussions with some of the top creative minds in the field. I also have to say that Ross’s concept art, utilized on many of the menu and option screens, is beautiful. I’d love to see Frank Miller and Alex Ross take the Unbreakable concept and spin a series out of it, as it would have to be better than 90% of what’s available in comics today.

In short, you should own this one if you didn’t fall into the “hated it” camp of the film’s audience, or if you’re a completist for all things comic-related, or both. Despite the lackluster extras, the film was one of the highlights of 2000, and the DVD is worth it for that alone.

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