Movies to watch this weekend: Unbreakable
In the interest of entertainment diversity and respecting busy weekend schedules, we've divvied this up into two articles. Those of you after a quick movie should stay right here. Those of you after a multi-hour binge watch ought to go here for our TV show recommendation.
Movie option: Unbreakable (2000)
Following the phenomenal success of The Sixth Sense (1999), it was a hard ask for hot-on-the-scene writer/director M. Night Shyamalan to raise the bar any higher. 2000's Unbreakable didn't quite manage to pull that off, but critics and theatregoers were still blown away by this superhuman attempt to do so.
For starters, this is without a doubt one of Bruce Willis's finest on-screen performances to date. He delivers a delicate and haunted portrayal of security guard David Dunn, sole survivor of a horrific train crash and supposed inheritor of supernatural abilities. Likewise, Shyamalan offers an insightful deconstruction of comic books (right as Marvel was starting its cinematic reign with 2000's X-Men). Unbreakable may lack the big budget, CGI spectacle and Hugh Jackman's twelve-pack, but it nonetheless remains one of the best superhero films of all time.
What's the basic gist and why watch this now?
What we have here is a brilliant retelling of the Superman mythology. To the point where the ad tagline could have read: "what if Supes was on Earth and didn't know he was Supes?" Yeah, ok, DC Comics would have complained, but that's the exact plight of David Dunn, an average Joe who is the only person to walk away, completely unscathed, from a train wreck that kills 131 people. After reuniting with his estranged wife Audrey and his son Joseph, Dunn attends a mourning service for his fellow passengers. When the funeral ends, Dunn finds a card on his car that's been left by a local comic book-obsessed crackpot, Elijah Price. It poses one simple question: "How many days have you been sick?"
The answer comes back as “never” and Price, being a sufferer of a rare condition that essentially gives him the brittlest bones imaginable, starts to become worryingly fixated on Dunn. He's long since theorised that if he exists on one end of the "frailty spectrum", there must surely be a nigh-invincible somebody who exists at the other end. What follows is an "am I or aren't I" journey of self-discovery for Dunn that ends with one of the best-ever, late-game Shyamaladingdong twists.
What trivia can I drop about this at dinner parties?
Here's an infobyte entree: Of all the films he's made, this is M. Night Shyamalan's personal favourite and was written with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson already in mind for the two leads. He's not the only notable director who likes it either. Cinephile Quentin Tarantino puts this in his top 20 and once called it “one of the masterpieces of our time”.
A more main course chunk of trivia would be that the scene where David's son tries to shoot him was, shockingly, based on a real-life incident. The urban legend goes that George Reeves, star of the 1950's TV show The Adventures of Superman, was once confronted by a child who asked to shoot him with a real gun while Reeves was in costume. Cool as a cucumber, Superman convinced the kid not to do it as “the bullet would bounce off him and hit somebody else”. Understandably, Reeves refused to wear the suit on promotional tours from that point on.
Last of all, Shyamalan didn't invent a disease for plot purposes, osteogenesis imperfecta is an incredibly rare but totally real disease. One of our own has it, Australian actor Quentin Kenihan was born with the condition and you'd probably best remember him as one of Immortan Joe's sons in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).
What if I want more, post-watch?
Foxtel Now has you covered with Split (2017) another Shyamalan production that stars James McEvoy as Kevin, a sufferer of multiple personality disorder. Ol' Kev's surely got the current high-score, too, what with 23 different personalities rolling around in his head. Unfortunately, there's another identity still submerged, The Beast, who is basically the one out to rule them all like a mental Sauron.
To prepare for his dark arrival, some of Kev's eviler “sides” kidnap a group of three teenage girls who are led by the wilful and observant Casey. The gripping thriller that follows is more or less must-watch material if you hope to be in the know when Glass releases in cinemas mid-2019.
Is there anything related to this on streaming?
Here are some more superhero TV shows and movies that break the mould.
If you're developing a taste for unconventional superhero stories, there's a bunch of streaming options available to you. Legion, a TV series well into its second season on Foxtel Now, is well worth a look. Connected to the X-Men films, it is the story of Marvel Comics character David Haller (aka “Legion”).
Dave's the mutant son of Charles Xavier and is a schizophrenic who possesses fledgling telepathy and telekinesis abilities. What follows is a fresh take on the superhero genre, an enthralling deconstruction of villainy plus a quirky love story to boot.
Last of all, if you want to see a great comic brought to life you really ought to catch Dredd (2012) on Foxtel Now. Forget your goody-two-shoes heroes in spandex because this elite law enforcer of Mega-City One is judge, jury and executioner.
You know what? Karl Urban, a consummate fan of the original 2000 A.D. comics, was born to pull on the Judge's helmet (and *never* take it off, unlike in Sylvester Stallone's woeful 1995 flick). Filled with bombastic ultra-violence and deadpan humour, Dredd is an arresting cyberpunk experience that's criminally under-loved.
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