DVD Review: Unbreakable
by George Grant
Published: June 25, 2001
After his 1999 smash hit The Sixth Sense, M Night Shyamalan was unlikely to move to a completely different style of filmmaking for his follow up, and so it comes as little surprise that Unbreakable is another slow paced exploration of the supernatural starring Bruce Willis. The key difference this time is that the focus is on comic book heroes, rather than ghosts, although the tone of the film remains sombre and downbeat.
The basic plot is a comparatively simple one; Willis, as security guard David Dunn, is the sole survivor of a horrific train crash, escaping without a single scratch. He is then contacted by mysterious comic book dealer Elijah, or 'Mr Glass' (Samuel L Jackson), who informs Dunn that he believes him to be an invincible superhero. At first sceptical, Dunn slowly realises that he does indeed have powers that others do not. The scene is thus set for a restrained, low key battle between good and evil, rather than a Joel Schumacher-esque orgy of fights and explosions.
While many disliked Unbreakable, there are more than enough moments of suspense and thrills to satisfy most audiences, even if Shyamalan's description of it as an 'action film' is somewhat misleading. Willis and Jackson are excellent in multi-faceted roles, although Robin Wright is more or less wasted as Dunn's wife. If, at the end, the final revelation comes as something more or less expected, the journey there is consistently interesting.
The picture is an exceptionally nice 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. The film is filmed in dark, muted colours for the most part, in order to reflect Shyamalan's vision of the comic book world, and the transfer does complete justice to this. While not exactly a test disc, it is one of the better pictures I've seen on a DVD for a while.
With a choice of DTS and 5.1, the sound, like the picture, is excellent. Good occasional use is made of surround effects, as in the opening train ride sequence, and DVD helps to pick up on the subtler sound effects in scenes (such as, for instance, the occasional quiet use of train sounds in domestic scenes, in order to bring about a sense of the extraordinary.)
The first DVD in Buena Vista's new 'Vista series', the extras are a pleasing, if hardly groundbreaking bunch. Concentrated on the 2nd disc, there is a 15 minute making-of documentary, which is excellent as far as it goes, but feels as if it has been edited down for length. The other documentary, on comic book heroes, is longer at 20 minutes, but is slightly obscure for those not completely acquainted with comics.
The main supplement is 8 deleted scenes, all with quite lengthy introductions from Shyamalan. I often find that deleted scenes are as good as scenes in the finished film, and these are no exception, with one scene of Mr Glass as a child on a fairground ride especially harrowing. All are presented in anamorphic 5.1. The other extra is a multi-angle, mixed sound demonstration of the first scene in which Dunn uses his 'powers'. As with many other scene to storyboard comparisons, it's nothing outstanding (and the fact that you can't change sound from your remote is an irritation). Still, it's a nice addition. The last extra is an amusing extract from a childhood 'action' film of Shyamalan's, entitled 'Night's first fight scene.'
The film is extremely worth watching, if only to see how far Bruce Willis has progressed as an actor since the days of horrors like Blind Date and Sunrise, and the audio/video quality is exemplary. With some interesting extras (which arguably didn't need their own disc) this is a DVD well worth investigating.