NEW COLUMN Flicks & Folios – Flick: Unbreakable

March 05, 2003

First, I should explain my column title. This is a new weekly column and I’ll be reviewing either films or books. I won’t be handling the “current” stuff – simply because twenty bucks and some for Larry and I to see a movie is ridiculous for us. I’ll also be reviewing books that aren’t on the bestsellers list – I’m a library cardholder and – despite the dumb two-dollar charge for holds not picked up in the Calgary library system – I support libraries. I also hate the price of current books. How many students are feeling the penny pinches?

Now, on to my review:

Bruce Willis stars as David Dunn, an incredibly average Joe, in this 2000 production by M. Night Shyamalan. You may recognize this director from one of his more recent films, Signs, with Mel Gibson (for those of you who are movie trivia buffs, you can see the director in Unbreakable as the “drug dealer at the stadium”). This project doesn’t have the scary stuff that Signs did.

David is a security guard at a university. We begin this well-produced flick with the character on a train returning home. He strikes us as a cad when he removes his wedding band to talk with a pretty lady. But later as the film progresses we see there are other reasons behind this move and maybe he’s not that much of a cad. His marriage to Robin Wright Penn’s character, Audrey, isn’t doing too well.

Oddly, he is soon to be the only survivor on the train after it crashes. He not only survives, but also walks away with no broken bones or scratches. Doctors, family and the press are momentarily astounded (later, we find out this isn’t his only near fatal accident in David’s life). Nevertheless, he goes back to his dull life.

The film starts to knock him out of that doldrum when he finds an unsigned card on his car windshield. The card is from an art gallery and has an unusual question, “How many days in your life have you been sick?”

From there on we watch David try to explain his inordinately healthy life to his wife, child and Elijah Prince (played by Samuel L. Jackson) the frail man who runs the art gallery and who left the mysterious card.

Spencer Treat Clark, playing David’s son Joseph, adds a brilliant dimension to this film. The child’s confusion and irrational behavior over his father’s possible identity makes for a spine tingling scene in the kitchen. I won’t ruin it and tell you what it is. Simply saying that it works and puts such a spin on the film is enough.

Elijah is a character who humanizes the anti-hero. We see him right from birth. Born with broken bones he goes through teasing, name-calling (Mr. Glass) and endless trips to the hospital. This character clues us in, step by step, to David’s greatness. But, when David reveals that he almost drowned as a child it looks as if Elijah’s theory is out the window, until Elijah draws the comparison between Superman’s kryptonite and David’s drowning and we GET IT! “I never said you couldn’t be killed,” he says one day. Every hero has a flaw somewhere, but every anti-hero has a larger one.

Lovely touches of classic-style comic book art are added to the film in the art gallery. Elijah and his mother add the philosophies that go with the art. She began the philosophies as a way to make Elijah willing to go out into the world when the kids at school were too cruel. They became his lifeline later and set his twisted beliefs in motion.

Most importantly to me, this film has humanized the superhero. We no longer have to watch someone in blue tights or a latex mask to feel that there are true heroes in the world. This made me think. I have an email buddy, a best-selling Canadian author who would probably REALLY identify with the character since she never gets sick either. I asked her why she never gets sick once and she simply said, “because I never think about it.” Well:that made me curious. Maybe there are people who are “super human” folks in our world. How come my buddy never gets sick? She’s a nice lady with white hair, but she doesn’t complain about getting stiff or breaking bones or say, “owww my spleen!”

My question to all of us, “how are YOU super-human?” Surely you are above average in something. What is it?

The Movie Central (cable TV) blurb describes this film as “a suspense thriller with “supernatural overtones that revolves around a man who learns something extraordinary about himself after a devastating accident.” Talk about a low-key write up! Sheesh! I won’t give away the wonderful ending simply because I enjoyed the film so much.

Park yourself for an hour and forty-five minutes and enjoy this well-done PG rated film.

Laura Seymour first published herself, at age 8. She has since gone on to publish a cookbook for the medical condition Candida. She is working toward her B.A. (Psyc).

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