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Previews are a great part of the movie watching experience. They’re like movie appetizers. People turned up at the latest Star Trek movie just to get a glimpse of the trailer for Star Wars Episode 1. They give you a taste of the movies to come. Sometimes the preview can be better than the movie itself. Unbreakable can be disappointing because its preview was misleading. The preview hinted at a divine purpose for it’s main character, as if he was saved by divine intervention from the train wreck that opens the film. That’s not what this movie is about. However, if you know what to expect, it can enhance your enjoyment of the film.

It’s important to know that Unbreakable is essentially a modern comic book fable. David Dunn (Bruce Willis) survives a huge train wreck on the way back from New York City. He is the sole survivor and escapes injury in a crash where everyone else died. A mysterious note appears on David’s window shield after a memorial service for all of those who died in the train wreck. The note is from Elijah Price who has made a career out of his love of comic books, his one escape in his childhood filled with broken bones from a bone disorder. Elijah’s life has been filled with curiosity about whether there could be a person at the other end of the spectrum. If he could be born so weak, perhaps there could be a person born with great strength. He has made it his purpose to search for this person.

Elijah’s curiosity causes David to question certain aspects of his own life. Has he ever been sick? Has he ever had an injury in all of his years of playing football? Under Elijah’s observation, David comes to realize his innate ability of spotting trouble as a security guard at Temple’s football field is close to clairvoyant visions. In chasing down someone from the football stadium, Elijah finds proof of David’s visions. He narrowly misses talking to this person as he follows him down into a train station – a dangerous task for the frail Elijah. M. Night Shyamalan shows his skill as a director in his ability to create tension as a character simply descends a flight of stairs.

We find that David was on that train travelling from New York for a job interview. He and his wife Audrey (Robin Wright Penn) seem to have given up on their marriage. Shyamalan is able to show so much with a gesture or hands letting go, the removal of a ring, talk of a job in New York. Looking for a job in another city is a first step towards a divorce. David’s son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) has unwavering faith in his father. After watching his father bench press he finds that his dad might actually be able to beat up all of his friends’ dads, as the childhood cliché goes.

The real story lies in David’s struggles against real life. It’s his struggles against himself and his ability to be a father and husband that make this story interesting and real. David is at a crossroads in his life. He gave up a football career and finds himself as a security guard. Robin Wright Penn gives a sympathetic performance as a woman struggling to hold on to her marriage. While David seems content to let it go, his reasons for quitting football are questioned when Audrey reveals to Elijah that she could never be with someone who spends his life with violence.

The fact that it’s a comic book can come off as annoying to some viewers but there are some engaging stories beneath the exterior story. The suspension of disbelief isn’t too unrealistic. David’s “powers” are qualified in contrast to Elijah’s disorder, presenting him as an exceptional human but not superhuman. The film avoids sexy violence. There weren’t any guns fired in this movie (although that fact still provides tension in the film). Ultimately, this movie is an atypical drama about finding a purpose in life but also about keeping your family and staying together all within the realm of a mature comic book tale. The movie is understated, some might find this to be ineffective but it only takes more involvement on the part of the audience to care about these characters. The family story is the most engaging part of the film. The driving force behind David’s discovery about himself is revealed to little effect but, on the whole, this is an interesting exploration of a modern hero.



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