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Unbreakable (2000)

27 January 2010 by Keeferman 3 Comments


2000, dir. M. Night Shyalaman
106 min., Rated PG-13.
Starring: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn, Spencer Treat Clark.

Review by Keeferman

First, let me acknowledge how amazing The Dark Knight was. It was amazing. Heath Ledger wasn’t overhyped, he was actually that amazing. Amazingly, Gary Oldman wasn’t underutilized this time around. Christian Bale, even with all the hoarse whispering, is still the best Batman evar. The script (and its execution) was sophisticated. Amazing as it was though, it’s not the best superhero movie ever.

I can imagine what many of you are thinking. “Superman Returns was good, but it wasn’t That good.” You’re right. “Batman Begins was good, but it wasn’t That good.” You’re right about that as well. “Iron Man was really good, but it wasn’t better than The Dark Knight.” That’s true too. But the best superhero movie of all time isn’t as obvious as all that.

It’s UNBREAKABLE. Unbreakable is, without a doubt, the best superhero movie of all time. It didn’t have the $200,000,000 budget of Spider-man, it didn’t have the special effects of Hellboy II, and it didn’t have the all-star cast of X-Men 3, but MAN it was awesome. Subtly awesome. That’s no oxymoron. It was subtle and it was awesome. Subtle in its delivery, awesome in its impact.

Here’s the big caveat. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, be prepared to hit [Stop] about 30 seconds before the end. If you haVe seen it already, wipe the last 30 seconds of it from your memory and be prepared to reconsider the movie as a whole. Basically, the studio makes a redundant point at the end pointing out how the movie ends. Apparently American audiences are considered quite dense, so it was decided to punctuate a subdued movie with a big, dumb exclamation point. So dumb it’s almost a dealbreaker. You leave that clumsy punctuation out and this movie isn’t just good, it’s great.

Back to “subtly awesome” though. The reason it’s the best superhero movie of all time is because its strength wasn’t in the certainty of having superpowers, it was in the doubt of the guy who had them. It was about a believable man, not some unbelievable superman. How would you really react when it dawned on you that you weren’t normal? This movie was realistic about all that. It took all the obvious questions a responsible movie has to ask and it answered them realistically. Internal to the character and externally as well. He didn’t leap over any tall buildings, he didn’t blast anybody with laserbeams from his eyes, and he bled red blood. Nothing fantastic, he was “just” superhuman.

His weakness, instead of being just another distracting cliché you check off The Superhero Checklist, was so mundane in it’s application that you absolutely believed it. It was too real not to be real. He dealt with his vulnerabilities and he put badguys away and he had a nemesis. Ohhhh his nemesis. As naive as our hero was about his abilities, so too was the nemesis almost innocent in his own abject evil. He was so perfect in his depiction of a person struggling to find Purpose that you almost feel Pity for him even as you watch him commit mass murder. It was stunning. Just stunning.

As good as The Dark Knight was, I found myself reminded of this other movie. As much as I appreciated that The Dark Knight treated me like an adult (instead of a Goober-drooling nine year old), it wasn’t the first time and it wasn’t the Best time I felt that feeling. Unbreakable is another movie for grown ups. Any child can be blown away by explosions and gadgets and colorful costumes. If you need that for a superhero movie to blow your cape up, then yeah, this movie is a little too subtle for you. If, however, you can appreciate the more thoughtful side of superheroism, you have to agree that this is one of the best ever.


  • Phantom Troublemaker said:

    This is absolutely the best not-adapted-from-a-comic superhero movie. I detest M. Night, but I love Unbreakable. I love The Happening, too; but for completely different reasons.

  • JCom said:

    You are on the money with your review of this film, Ive been telling people over the years at how good this movie is.For With a cast that has Bruce Willis, Samuel L Jackson and Directed by M knight you would of though this would of been a huge success alas it wasn’t.

  • Money In The Pants said:

    This – along with a visceral hatred of Skynard – is what makes me kiss Keith on the forehead.

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