Skip to content

Unbreakable

November 11, 2010

“Comics are capable of being anything the mind can imagine. I consider it a great privilege to be a cartoonist. I love my work, and I am grateful for the incredible forum I have to express my thoughts. People give me their attention for a few seconds every day, and I take that as an honor and a responsibility. I try to give readers the best strip I’m capable of doing.”- Bill  Watterson, author of  Calvin & Hobbes.

//Spoilers in post

Growing up  in  a  time,  when  the only  form  of  entertainment  i  had  was  going to  the  movies in  a theater, or  listening to the  radio, and  of  course  endless hours  in the  sun,  during  holidays,  my  only  other  pastime  as a kid,  was  reading  comics.  Sure  i had  the  reputation  of  being a book  worm,  reading  anything  and  everything  that  came  my way. But  comics  was  a special  fascination.  I  guess  it  had  more  to do  with  the  age  old  funda  of   “A Picture  is  worth  a thousand  words”.  I loved  comics,  and  just  laid  my hands on  whatever  i  could,  it  was  quite an  eclectic  mix  ranging  from  Tintin, Asterix  to  Disney  to  Marvel Comics  to  Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle  and  last  but not the least, the  entire  gamut  of  Indrajal  heroes  Phantom,  Flash  Gordon, Bahadur.   You  think debates  on  movies  and actors  can  raise  passions,  hah,  that  was  nothing  compared  to  the  fist  fights  that often broke out, when we debated  our  favorite  comic  book heroes.    While  becoming  an  adult  meant  comics, were  to be looked down upon,  and  you  read  only  the  novels,  there   still  was  some  kind of  love for  the  comics.   But  then  reading  them  in  public,  was  something  of   a no no,  “You  still  reading  comics, even though  you  are  grown up?”. One  good  thing about  the Noughties   was  the  renewed  interest  in  comics  again.   One  was  of  course  movies  like  Sin  City,  Spiderman  series,  Dark  Knight that  made me  go  back  to  the  comics,  another  was  that  becoming  a Dad,  meant  that  i  could  indulge in my  pleasure,  along  with my  daughter  without having to look  sheepish,  and  last  but not  the least,  buying  comics  did not  really pinch the  wallet.

But  much  as  i  love  comics,  i  am  not  sure  if  would  be  as  obsessed  as  Elijah  Price(  Samuel .L.  Jackson) in  Unbreakable,  who   seems  to  sleep,  eat, breathe  and  drink  them.  Or  maybe  its  more  a result  of   his  own  fragile  physical  condition.

There are probably only four or five individuals in the world who can claim more        knowledge of comics than myself. I’ve spent a third of my life in a hospital bed        with nothing else to do but read. I have studied the form intimately. I have seen   the patterns in them… The references to social and cultural events and the        atmosphere that surrounded them. I’ve come to believe that comics are our last    link to the ancient way of passing on history.

Actually  that  is  the  first  time,  i  actually  heard  some  one  about  comics  in that  light,  even if  it  were  a movie.  Many of  us  do  read  comics,  and  quite  often  fantasize  about  the  characters.  But  the difference  is,  Elijah  Price,  actually  took  them  seriously,  unlike  most  of  us,  who  just  see  it  as  some  kind  of  pulp  stuff, to be  read  and  discarded.   But  then  it  could  have  to  do  with  his  own   physical  condition,  diagnosed  with a  very  rare  disease,  commonly  known  as  the  brittle bones  syndrome,  i  believe it’s  scientific  name  is  Osteogenesis  imperfecta,  that  causes  the  bones  to break  easily.   It  is  this  disease   that  makes  him  rather  secluded, cut off  from the  outside  world,  and   the  comics  for  him  is  not  just  another  diversion,  its  a  world  he lives  every  moment  in.  The  super heroes  he  reads  about  in  comics  are  the  polar  opposite  of  him,  people  who  never  seem  to  get  injured or hurt,  people  who  are  indestructible  or  “unbreakable”  as  you  would  rather  take  it.
Now  while  his  views  about  comics  may  seem  delusional,  some  of  them  do  actually  strike  you  as  truthful,   as  his  observations  about  Egyptians,  depicting  the  history  of  their  battles  on the walls,  through  pictures.  In  fact,  its  not  just  the  Egyptians,  you  do find  this  kind of  pictorial  depiction  across  all  civilizations   ranging  from  the  cave  paintings  of  the  early  men  to the  rock cut  sculptures  we  have  in  our  ancient  Indian temples, as  well as the  paintings  in  the  palaces,  to  the  symbols  inscribed  upon by  the totem poles  by the  Red  Indians,  and  the  paintings by  the  Chinese,  some  way  or  other,  pictures  have  always  been  used  to  depict   the  history  and life of  a people. But  Elijah’s   search  is  something  else  deeper,   he  believes  that   if  there  could  be  some  one  like  him, so  fragile, so  delicate,  there  would  be  some one  else  at  the  other  end   of  the  spectrum.  A  mighty  super  hero,  who  can never  be  injured,  can  never  be  defeated,  can  never  be  conquered,  in  short  the  “unbreakable”  person,  only  Elijah  feels  that  such a  person  exists  in  real life.

His  feeling   comes  from  the  experiences  of   David  Dunn(  Bruce  Willis),  a  security  guard  in  Philadelphia,  leading  what  seems  to  be  a normal  life.   But  David  is  not  what  seems  to be  your  average Joe,  he is  the only  person  who  has  survived  a  horrifying  train  accident,  that  has  killed  around  more than 100  passengers.  And  he  actually  has  not  sustained  a   single  scar, bruise or  injury  during  the  accident,  apart  from being  knocked  out  unconscious.  Something  which  even  the  doctors,  are  confounded  by.    David’s  concerns  are  however  more  earthy,   his  relationship  with  wife  Megan(  Robin Wright  Penn) is  going down, as  she  tells him  when  he  asks  her to  sleep  in our  room,  “It  stopped  being  our  room, a long  while  ago”. David’s  son  Jeremy  however  idolizes  his  father,  he  believes  him to  be  a  hero.     What  i  loved  here is  the  way  director  Shyamalan  keeps  building  up  the  leads  to  David’s   character.   The  first  lead  being  the  card  asking  him  “How  many  days  of  your  life,  have you  been sick?”. Unlike  most  of  the  superhero  movies,  where  the  character  discovers  his  strengths  with  almost immediate  effect,  here  the  build  up  is  more  gradual.  In  fact  for  a major  part of  the  movie,  we  are  as  unsure  as  David  is,  whether  he  is a  super  hero  or not.
Something  which  Elijah  feels  he  is.  Elijah’s  fascination  for  the  comic book  superheroes  is  something  that  is  established  right  up  in  a flashback,  when  his  mother  gifts  him  a  comic book.    But   for  him  comics  are  a form of  high  art,  they  are  something  to  be  pondered  over  philosophically.   As  he  explains  to a client, about  the  significance  of  an  art  work,  featuring  the  super  hero  Slayer  locked  in  combat  with  the  villain  Jaguaro, the  hero  having  a  square  jaw  head,  and  the  villain’s  head  being  slightly  disproportionate  to  the  size  of  his  body. Now  this is  again a  common  feature  in  most  art  forms,  the  best  example  i  can  think  of  being  the  greenish mask   for  the  hero  and  the  reddish green hues  for  the  anti  hero  characters  in Kathakali.  Now  assuming  that  comics  do  follow  some  standard  guidelines,  while  depicting  the  characters,  why  are  they   not  classified  as art? I  feel it  lies  in  the  explanation  Elijah  gives  at  the  end of  it
When  the  characters  eventually  made  it  to the  magazine,  they  were  always  exaggerated,..  as  always  happens.
So  was  it  like  the  creators  of  comics,  actually  had  some  artistic  sensibilities, but  which  were  commercialized  for  business  purposes?  Again  no  straight  answer  there,  but  the  fact  that  Unbreakable actually  made  me keep thinking  and raising  those  questions,  shows  its  triumph.  Elijah  is  furious,  when  he  comes  to  know  that  the  business  client  wants  to  buy  that  painting  for  his  4  year  old son,  for  him it  is  unacceptable,  that  a work  of  art, could  be  so  trivialized  in  this  manner.

I teach you the Superman. Man is something that should be overcome- Friedrich  Nietschze,  Thus  Spake  Zarathustra.

On a  deeper  level,  though  Unbreakable  is  a more  philosophical  quest,  the  age  old  question of  man  and  Superman,    the  one which  seeks  to  find  the  real  person  within  us.   The  quest  here  is   by  Elijah,  but  he  is  not  seeking   the  superman  within  himself,  he   is  seeking  it  in the  world  around  him. And  he  is  convinced  that  David  is  the  answer  to  his  question.

If there is someone like me in the world, and I’m at one  end of the spectrum…Couldn’t there be someone the opposite of me, at the  other end?A person who can’t be hurt  like the rest of us. A kind    of person they were talking   about in those stories.

David  however  is  not  too convinced,  after  all  he  had  an accident,  that  put  and  end  to  his  football career.  Elijah  looks  more  like  a scamster  for him,  some  one  who  is  trying  to  rip  him off.  Elijah  however  is  now  even more  convinced,  that  David  is  the  one,  especially  the  fact  that  he  works  as a  stadium  security  guard.

You could have poured coffee   in Starbucks, you could have   learned to install track    lighting in office   buildings, you could have   told people their horoscopes   on the internet… You could  have been one of ten   thousand things… but in the end, you chose to   protect people. You made   that decision… and I find   that very, very interesting.

Elijah  is  convinced  that  underneath  David’s  seemingly  normal  persona,  lies  a super hero  waiting to be  found  out.  The  super  hero he  has  been  seeking  all  life,  for  whom  David  is   the  Holy  Grail  he  has  been  in  search  of.   This is  what  makes  the  interaction  between  those  2  characters  so  fascinating,  one  searching  for  the  truth,  and  finding it,  and  the  other  reluctant  to  accept  it.    In  another  excellent  scene,  Elijah  tracks  a person,  whom  David  had  earlier  apprehended  at the  stadium.  David  calls  it  just  “gut  instinct”  and  nothing  more  than  that,  Elijah  however  tracks  him to the  subway,  and  then  the  camera  closely  tracks  him slipping  down, falling  the  stairs, and  he  sees  that  the  man  was  indeed  armed.
One  really  chilling  scene  in  the  movie  is  when  David’s  son,  who by  now  totally convinced  about  his  father being  invincible,  tries  to  fire  at  him  with  a  revolver.  His  belief  is  that  his  Dad  would  not  die.  The  way  David  talks  his  son  out of  it,  trying  to  convince  him, he  is  after  all  mortal,  he is  not  God, is  brilliantly  done.  In  one  way,  the  scene  also  showcases  the  perils  of  blind  adulation,  which David  does  not  want  his  son to suffer  from.   Unbreakable  is  more  about  the  relationships,  but  primarily  the  3  major  ones  are  between David  and his wife, trying  to  save  a marriage  that  is on the rocks,  between  David  and his  son  Jeremy,  the  latter  idolizing  his  father  as  a hero,  the  former  trying  to prove  to him, he is only  human,  and  of  course  the  most  important one between David  and  Elijah.   It  is  the  way  Shyamalan  handles  these  relationships,  that   make  the  movie   fascinating.
Unbreakable  for  me   is  Shyamalan’s   finest  work  to  date,   i  would  rate  it  much higher  than  The  6th  Sense.  Supernatural beings,  ghosts  and  aliens  from  outer space  is  something  the  average  American  is  fascinated,  which is  what  Shyamalan  dealt  about  with  in  6th  Sense  and  Signs.   Unbreakable  was  however  a bit more  deeper,  looking  at  the  human  fascination for  the  super heroes,  but  more  importantly,  the  psychological  desire  to  reach  out  to  some  one  on  the  other  side,  the  human  fascination with  a person  who  is  above  you.  The  fascination a normal  looking  person  has   for  a beautiful  looking one,  or  the  awe  with  which  an academically  average  student  looks  up  to  the  class topper,  or   a normal  middle  class  Joe  being swayed by  the rich and the powerful.  But    why  does   Elijah  carry  his  desire  to  obsessive  levels,  why  does  he  so  want to  reach out to David,  remind him of  his  super heroic  abilities?  I  believe  it  lies  in  the  way  the  movie  is  spaced  out.  Many  have  criticized  the  “twist”  in the  end,  or  maybe  they  were  expecting  another  6th  Sense  kind of  twist,  but  if  one  observes  Elijah’s  motivations,  and   his  interaction with   David,  what  happens  in the  end  makes  perfect  sense.
Unbreakable  also  is  helped  by  some  excellent   performances  by  the  cast.  Bruce Willis going  away  from  his  Die  Hard   image,  comes  up  with  a restrained  and  excellent  portrayal  of   a  person,  who  begins to rediscover himself,  as  also  having  to  deal  with  the  people around  him.   His  acting  especially  in  the  scene,  where he  talks  his  son out  of  firing  at  him with  the  pistol  was  pretty good.  Samuel  Jackson,  of  course  steals  the  show,  and it helps  he  has  some  of  the  best  lines in the  movie.   One  part  that  i  particularly  loved, when  he cooly  holds up a  comic  book,  asking  the  store  clerk  the  price, this  after  he  has  made  a mess out of  half of  the store.  Robin  Wright  Penn   as   Megan  and  Spencer  Treat  Clark,  as  his  son Jeremy,  put  in  good supporting  acts.   Makes  me  wonder  though  what  has happened  to  Shyamalan of  late,  Village  was the  last good  movie  i liked,  though  the climax  made  no  sense  to me.   Unbreakable  shows  that  he is  too good  a director  to be kept  down for too long.
Advertisements
4 Comments
  1. Excellent story with excellent performances. Some scenes are amazing that I can't forget them. At the end I just love this movie. free new movies

  2. Unbreakable is my favorite Shyamalan's movies!! Signs comes as a close second! It is also one of my favorite movies on comic books

  3. yes, the imaage of Bruce Willis did go few notched up after these movies.I wonder what happened to Shyamalan. Very disappointed that he is not in the movie making scene.

  4. Awesome, another scene which I would like to talk about is ….when he saves those girls…next morning on dining table while his son is having orange juice and the wife just tells the kid about informing police if he calls up next time and the way…David, the father shows the newspaper….and the son starts crying…brilliant.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: