Unbreakable (2001)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn
Extras: Making of Featurette, Comic Book Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Storyboard Comparisons, Director’s Early Film

At times, it seems that entertainment reporting is more popular than the entertainment itself. Today we are swamped with magazines, television shows, and websites reporting exclusively on Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Therefore, it’s hard to be surprised by anything anymore. When "The Sixth Sense" was released in 1999, I tried to avoid the media hype, but from the little information that I was exposed to, I was able to figure out the surprise ending before I saw the film. I still enjoyed it, but I would have liked it more, had I been shocked by the ending. Thus, when "Unbreakable" from "The Sixth Sense" writer/director M. Night Shyamalan hit theaters, I went out of my way to be totally ignorant of the film’s story or any plot twists. I’m glad to say that my strategy paid off, and viewing the "Unbreakable" DVD, new to home video from Buena Vista, and the first offering in their Vista Series, was quite a treat.

(SPOILER WARNING: As noted above, I knew next to nothing about "Unbreakable" going into the film and really enjoyed it. However, I can’t really describe the plot without giving some things away. So, if you want to be totally surprised, skip a few paragraphs to the DVD review portion.)

As "Unbreakable" opens, we are introduced to David Dunn (Bruce Willis), a mild-mannered security guard from Philadelphia. David is returning home, by train, from New York City, where he’s had a job interview. David and his wife, Audrey (Robin Wright Penn), have been having marriage problems, and he’s thinking about relocating. But, David’s entire future is thrown asunder when his train derails. Miraculously, David survives. But, the true miracle is that he’s the sole survivor and that he isn’t injured in any way when everyone else perishes in the wreckage. David has no explanation for this bizarre occurrence, and tries to go on with his life.

David is then approached by a mysterious stranger, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson). Price has a rare genetic disorder, which makes his bones especially fragile. Having grown up with this condition, Price spent a great deal of time reading comic books. He contacts David because he is convinced that comic book heroes aren’t just fictional characters. Price believes that comic book heroes truly walk among us and that David’s ability to survive the railway disaster proves that he is one of them. Of course, David assumes that Price is insane, but soon strange things begin to occur and David begins to question, who he really is. Is David a superhero, or is Price simply a lonely man on an endless quest?


With "Unbreakable", we get to see a filmmaker at the top of his game. M. Night Shyamalan has crafted a superb thriller here, leading the audience down several different paths until the film reaches its shocking conclusion. While comparisons to "The Sixth Sense" are inevitable, "Unbreakable" is an all-around better film, as it reflects a maturing on Shyamalan’s part. He allows the story to develop at its own pace, and never rushes things — however, the film is never boring. The viewer is captivated from the start by the film’s unique story and goes along with Shyamalan until the conclusion. He wisely chose not to show the train derailment taking place. This film isn’t about a railway disaster. It’s about one man’s personal disaster, as he attempts to discover who he really is. The story isn’t perfect, as there are some plot-holes, but having now seen the film, I’m truly surprised that it wasn’t nominated for a screenwriting Oscar (at the least).

And while "The Sixth Sense" was in no way visually boring, Shyamalan seems out to prove himself as a visual director, as the film opens with not one, but three scenes which are made up of one shot. (The scene in the E.R. is especially impressive.) These three scenes are by far the most impressive, but the film is full of long takes, most shot from an unusual distance. Shyamalan has become quite astute at allowing the image to tell much of the story. As with "The Sixth Sense", there is a great deal of attention paid to color schemes (which actually give you clues as to what’s happening in the film). But, even more impressive, the costuming plays a big role in the film, and that’s something that you rarely see in a modern thriller. The powerful imagery in the film only helps to enhance the already enthralling story.

Bruce Willis turns in another fine performance with "Unbreakable". He plays David Dunn as a quiet and somber man. Actually, Willis plays Dunn as almost too quiet at times, and it becomes difficult to accurately ascertain exactly what David is thinking and feeling. Samuel L. Jackson is equally impressive as Price, once you get past his fright-wig. Jackson turns in quite an emotional performance, which was made doubly hard, as he must perform with certain physical limitations. Kudos must also go to young Spencer Treat Clark, who plays David’s son. For certain scenes, he serves as the anchor to the audience, as he is a witness to the events taking place in his father’s life. Clark plays these scenes with a genuine sense of awe and affect.

"Unbreakable" comes crashing onto DVD courtesy of Buena Vista Home Entertainment, with a fantastic <$THX,THX>-certified transfer. The film has been <$PS,letterboxed> at 2.35:1 and the image is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TVs. The picture is practically flawless, showing little to no grain and no onscreen noise. There is some slight distortion with horizontal lines, such as Venetian blinds, but this only happens for a very brief period. The image is very clear, which necessitates excellent color reproduction. As mentioned above, color is very important to this film. The vast majority of the film has a cold, dark look, which is perfect for the DVD medium, as the reproduction of a true black gives the picture a vast amount of depth. But, when a bright color shows up, these look vivid and natural as well. Overall, this is a very good transfer.

The same goes for the audio package on "Unbreakable". The DVD offers several audio choices, the main one being a <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 channel> soundtrack and a <$DTS,DTS> 5.1 track. These two tracks are very similar in quality, and both sound very good. As should be expected, the dialogue is very clear and never muffled. There is a generous amount of surround sound action, and both soundtracks offer a wide dynamic range and create an enveloping soundfield. It rains throughout Chapter 23, and this offers a great opportunity for the surround sound to shine. Also, the score by James Newton Howard comes across quite well, with the low tones giving a nice amount of bass response.

"Unbreakable" is the first DVD in Disney’s new "Vista Series", whose slogan is "Celebrating the filmmaker’s vision with imagination and content." Well, I had imagined that there would be more content on this 2-disc set. The first disc contains the movie only, while the few extra features are offered on the second disc. We begin with an impressive 15-minute "making of" featurette. Instead of bombarding us with clips from the movie that we just watched, this featurette has extensive interviews with the cast and crew, to give us an idea of the thought that went into the film. Everything from the script to music to sound design is explored, as we hear from M. Night Shyamalan, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James Newton Howard, and many more. While this is no substitute for a scene-specific commentary, it is a well-done featurette.

A second featurette is entitled "Comic Books and Superheroes". This 20-minute feature steers away from "Unbreakable" somewhat and focuses on the world of comic book. Offering interview with comic book legends Frank Miller, Will Eisner, and Denny O’Neil, just to name a few, this special feature explores the history of the comic book and how it has affected modern society.

For me, the most interesting special feature were the seven deleted scenes, each of which is accompanied by an introduction by M. Night Shyamalan. While some are brief and wouldn’t be missed, there are two in particular which are definitely worth checking out. One involved David visiting a priest, which I feel should have been left in the film, and the other offers an additional Elijah Price flashback, which doesn’t necessarily add to the story, but is interesting nonetheless. Next, we have a detailed examination of the train station sequence. This scene can be watched either in its finished form or as storyboards by using the multi-angle feature. You can also pick the soundtrack for this scene, with the options offering the finished soundtrack, effects only, or score only alternatively. Finally, as with "The Sixth Sense" DVD, Shyamalan has included a 90-second clip from one of the films that he made as a child.

"Unbreakable" brings us a seemingly impossible feat — an action film which features little action. But, the amazing story is enough to leave any viewer breathless. And don’t worry, knowledge about or appreciation of comic books is not a prerequisite for enjoying the film. The DVD brings us a sparkling transfer, with great audio, but leaves something to be desired with second disc. Take it from me, "Unbreakable" is no "train wreck" of a movie.