Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 102 minutes
Audio: PCM 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: April 1, 2008
Review Date: March 22, 2008
Of all director M. Night Shyamalan’s cinematic concoctions, Unbreakable is unquestionably my favorite to date. A somber, reflective piece of magic realism that works its quiet effects without bombast, Unbreakable is not for all tastes, but it seems an agreeable flipside to many of the heroic tent pole films that are such a part of every summer season. The director’s very real people connections (here between father and son and also between two diametrically opposed adults) are unexpectedly poignant further intensifying the film’s effect on a receptive audience.
The film seems at first to present us with two men who are polar opposites of one another: David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), and we assume the film will be about each man finding something in the other that is lacking in his own life. Both certainly are enduring unusual existences. Elijah was born with a brittle bone abnormality which makes him uniquely susceptible to injury. David, on the other hand, has just escaped a massive train derailment that killed 131 people and left him without a scratch. But as the movie winds its glacially slow way through each man’s life, we begin to understand that the story of these two opposites is about something very different. It’s about one’s destiny and the human need to embrace it rather than fleeing from it. True to Shyamalan’s other films, there are surprises to be found in Unbreakable, but they’re not the jaw-dropping kind one might expect. It’s perhaps best to simply allow the film to work its leisurely legerdemain on you without expectations.
Shyamalan has written a rather unusual script, a hero film without heaps of action or a hero who bowls us over with charisma and effortless charm. No, we have a reluctant hero, as unsure of his own ability as he is of his crumbling marriage and spotty relationship with his beloved son. But such admirable directorial touches are on display here: an opening “meet cute gone bad” on the train photographed through the space between seats (almost as if we were spying on something illicit), a bone-crunching fall down a flight of subway steps, a weight-lifting session which turns into something more than that, and, most electrifying of all, a kitchen encounter between a boy, his parents, and a gun which grips and jangles the nerves even on repeated viewings. The slow, methodical camera tracks and reverse direction shots both convey the measured storytelling and the quirky way of looking at the world which will turn one character’s life topsy-turvy before the end of the movie.
Bruce Willis is an actor who needs a firm directorial hand, and he gets it here delivering a poignant performance of great restraint, his slow, disbelieving understanding of his situation a key to the film’s ultimate success. As his adoring son Joseph, Spencer Treat Clark is quite wonderful, often the most effective when he merely reacts to those around him. Robin Wright Penn has some solid moments as David’s wife Audrey, though the problems with their marriage and some additional scenes with her might have given her a chance to get more out of her character. Samuel L. Jackson’s angry, assertive Elijah is similar to other roles he’s played in the past, but he’s perfectly in sync with the character as written and makes an ironic foil for Willis. Charlayne Woodard plays Jackson’s mother wryly and proficiently.
Unbreakable is a difficult movie to discuss without giving away secrets or surprises for the uninitiated. Whether you’ve seen other M. Night Shyamalan movies or not, leave your expectations at the door and simply enjoy a world that seems so ordinary at first and turns so extraordinary later on.
The film’s Panavision 2.35 aspect ratio is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. It’s a sharp, smooth transfer that’s consistently good but only occasionally great. Blacks are a bit of a letdown though shadow detail is very fine. Colors are strong without over saturation while contrast varies but is usually above average. The film is divided into 28 chapters.
The PCM 5.1 (4.6 Mbps) audio track is marvelous, filled with discreet effects (rain, passing voices) when needed and good use of both fronts and rears with the music and especially in that bone-crunching subway fall that intensifies every crack and break with full bodied force.
All of the bonuses have been ported over from the Vista DVD release of several years ago. Apart from the preview, these are presented in 480p. If you haven’t seen Unbreakable before, do not watch these first unless you want surprises in the film spoiled.
“Behind the Scenes” is a 14¼-minute featurette in which Shyamalan, Willis, Jackson, and others connected with the movie talk about its themes and their work from the original concept to the final execution. Also interviewed for this feature are the film’s production designer, costumer, and sound man.
“Comic Books and Superheroes” is a mini-history lesson on the golden age of comic book superheroes and how they have morphed today into something darker and more cynical. Quite a few famous names in the field of comic and graphic novels are on hand for this 19¼-minute feature which is admittedly only marginally about Unbreakable.
“The Train Station Sequence” offers a 4-minute clip from the film allowing the viewer to switch back and forth between the Shyamalan storyboards and the actual footage shot to see how closely they correspond to each other.
The disc offers 7 deleted scenes each introduced by M. Night Shyamalan who explains why they were deleted. I found two of them especially poignant (my favorite was one where Audrey tries to offer vending machine food to her son at the hospital who sits stupefied over the close call his father has just survived.) The viewer can watch individual scenes or watch them all in one 28½-minute bunch.
“Night’s First Fight Sequence” is a throwaway 2½-minute home movie shot by Shyamalan with two childhood friends all playing good guy/bad guy roles.
The disc offers in 1080p a preview for National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The trailer for Unbreakable is not included.
Unbreakable has continued to haunt me since my first viewing almost eight years ago. It’s a special film, possibly not for all audiences and a film one must be in the mood for. With those caveats in mind, however, the Blu-ray disc does present it in the best form it’s ever looked or sounded on home video. Definitely recommended.