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SF Films in Review — Wed 22 Nov 2000


Written and directed by M. Night Shyalaman
Starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn
Released by Touchstone

Review Grades

source, reviewer actual score grade*
Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert *** B
LAT, Kenneth Turan   C
Mr. Showbiz, Larry Terenzi 74/100 B
NYT, Elvis Mitchell   A-
Newsweek, David Ansen   C-
Salon, Ray Pride   C+
Time, Richard Schickel   B+
WP, Rita Kempley   C
IMDb 8.0/10 B+
* Assigned by Locus Online as subjective summary of each review


Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert

"Unbreakable," the new film by M. Night Shyamalan, is in its own way as quietly intriguing as his "The Sixth Sense." It doesn't involve special effects and stunts, much of it is puzzling and introspective, and most of the action takes place during conversations. If the earlier film seemed mysteriously low-key until an ending that came like an electric jolt, this one is more fascinating along the way, although the ending is not quite satisfactory.

LAT, Kenneth Turan

The real problem here is the story line, which starts out implausible and gets increasingly more difficult to take seriously as it unfolds. It's a comic-book idea in the worst sense, and Shyamalan's decision to start the film with on-screen statistics about the popularity of comics probably stems as much from a need to justify his preposterous plot as from the prominent place comics have in it.

Mr. Showbiz, Larry Terenzi

... Unbreakable, the top-secret follow-up to The Sixth Sense. The films are nearly identical structurally and stylistically. They're both somber, naturalistic explorations of the extrasensory. Details accumulate, in this case glacially, in the manner of a mystery or a good Twilight Zone episode, with the ultimate revelation a meticulously plotted catharsis. The biggest difference is not that the twist in Unbreakable offers little of the surprise that catapulted Sense to sleeper status — we can't really expect Shyamalan to hit another home run so easily — but that it offers none of the closure.

NYT, Elvis Mitchell

What "Unbreakable" shows is Mr.Shyamalan's remarkable growth as a director. Some of the sequences are particularly fine, crisp and contained, and given his thirst for commercial success, bewitchingly spare with long, fluid takes.

Instead of following a huge hit with a wildly overcomplicated movie as long as a night of prime-time television, Mr. Shyamalan goes the other way. "Unbreakable" is tidy and compact, and seems to have been only grazed by plot. This is a superhero comic rendered as a haiku. It is Superman starring in "The Seventh Seal" with an inspired twist: helping others only increases the hero's sadness. Mr. Shyamalan may be the only mainstream director hankering for success with a need to understate; he is like Shaq without the tattoos. The result is a mastery of craft that may leave some hungry for more.

Newsweek, David Ansen

"Unbreakable" is structured as a riddle that David, along with the audience, must gradually come to solve. As a director, Shyamalan unfolds his story with stately assurance, slowly upping the ante of creepiness like an anesthesiologist toying with his patient. It's the story itself that proves to be a problem. ... Still, "Unbreakable" is clearly the work of a gifted filmmaker. But Shyamalan badly needs to explore new territory.

Salon, Ray Pride

The greatest number of movies coming out of today's studio system are as shiny as a kitchen appliance and their innards are easily diagrammed, so it's tempting to forgive the young director's hubris and pretensions. There's a great line by Leonard Cohen: "There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in." Shyamalan wants the light to get into his story, his characters, and he's willing to tempt foolishness to make it happen. Yet cinematographer Eduardo Serra's images -- like "Se7en" without the savagery -- are dour and drained, all pale damp blues and chill grays that steep the film with the listlessness and indifference that have settled into the bones of Willis' security man: He sees damp people.

Time, Richard Schickel

This is a hushed, dark, rather thoughtfully paced film. If it lacks the persuasive menace of The Sixth Sense, that's because it's trying too hard to make its dubious point about evil as a self-conscious, supernatural immanence. Even so, it is an intelligent, insinuating entertainment.

WP, Rita Kempley

"Unbreakable," M. Night Shyamalan's oh-so-serious follow-up to "The Sixth Sense," finds the answers to life's eternal questions in comic books--a medium he approaches with reverence more suited to, say, the Dead Sea Scrolls. ... Like "The Sixth Sense," this film is a riddle wrapped in a mystery. Only in this case, the answer doesn't amaze or inform, it cheats audiences who have put in the time with the characters and come to care about them...

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