And now Mettel from Mettel Ray Movie Blog brings you a great post on Tarantino and one of his favourite films – Unbreakable. As always, this is a great work from her so be sure to read on, and if you don’t already know her site, head on over there after! A big thank you to Mettel for finding the time to contribute this article.
M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable is such a different kind of movie that there’s something special about it from the start. It is more or less about a superhero but it never emphasizes that fact to an extreme that is the regular comic book based hero like for instance Captain America. Bruce Willis portrays David Dunn who is the hero but he feels far from it – but in a good way. With a regular job, with a broken family life, Dunn is just a normal guy who happens to be the only survivor in a devastating train accident without a single scratch on him. That makes him unique but the way it’s presented never comes across as hero-esque but just mysterious and almost like natural. Samuel L. Jackson portrays Elijah Price, the other half of the coin one might say because while Dunn hasn’t even been ill during his entire life, Price has broken every bone in his body. He is like glass, Glassman they call him, and he is fascinated with comic books and heroes of all kinds. It is just natural that he gets invested in Dunn due to his miraculous survival being blasted all over the papers – the unbreakable man represents a hero to him although Dunn himself has a hard time believing it. When it comes to the performances of these two men, agreeing with Tarantino in terms of acting is a must – Bruce Willis does present a side of him John McClane hasn’t brought across. One might also think that the positive feedback applies to Samuel L. Jackson as well since Tarantino has worked with him in numerous cases.
The plot of Unbreakable makes it a delicate movie because it is done with such style that it’s difficult to classify it as a certain genre. Yes, it is a little-bit sci-fi and mystery but at the same time it doesn’t feel sci-fi at all. It almost feels like a regular drama with an uncommon twist that makes it stand out. The way the story evolves and presents itself, it is as if we’re almost faced with a regular man doing remarkable things – sounds a bit like Tarantino’s heroes to be honest. His latest Django Unchained also had a regular man with a talent of shooting doing things that some might call inhuman (surviving in that house in the final shootout scene). Unbreakable has David Dunn as a strong, unbreakable man finding himself and eventually being the hero. The way he gets to that moment is not through unnatural events, it’s almost as if it’s just inevitable and part of life itself – it is a very neatly presented plot that feels real in its unrealistic plot. What I’m trying to say is that Unbreakable is unique in its style and as Tarantino himself has a unique take on every genre he tackles, the appeal to the director might be evident right from the start.
Though the casting choices and the plot alone could make Unbreakable Tarantino’s favourite, there are elements that might appeal to Tarantino in terms of technical choices that Shyamalan has chosen for this movie. Three scenes stand out, one where Wright’s character confesses to her husband that she wants to keep trying – an emotional scene where we never see Willis’s reaction. The montage never cuts off to show the reaction of the husband, we only see his back of the head whilst the wife is talking and it is an interesting choice. The second scene is what makes the first one stand out, the scene where the school teacher tells Dunn his drowning story. A scene where we never see the teacher’s face and while her monologue is on the background, the camera is focused on Dunn. While the first and the second are opposite of each other (one focuses on the person giving the monologue, the other on the one listening) the style is evidently very similar to Tarantino himself. One might recall at least one example that is the opening scene of Kill Bill where the focus is on the bride while Bill presents his monologue. Third and final scene that stood out is where Dunn enters the house where he saves two kids from a criminal. He looks threatening with his raincoat and far from a hero – it made me chuckle a bit because it is a very contradicting in its core. The hero looks like the grim reaper and more dangerous than helpful – a contradiction that also reminds me of Tarantino who uses contradiction more often than we can remember.
Eventually, finding these parallels to Tarantino’s work was not difficult, I think in a way it is possible with many movies, but with Unbreakable it is certainly the easiest. The reason is behind the fact that I’ve seen Unbreakable three times now and I would see it again and again – something I do with Tarantino’s movies as well. In conclusion, Unbreakable presents a very likable hero and a very sympathetic villain, it has an interesting style that doesn’t just end with the story telling but also continues with the directing. As a cherry on top, the fact that Shyamalan and Tarantino are similar directors – they both write their own movies (most of them at least) – gives something to think about. Shyamalan’s fault though is the fact that he is inconsistent but looking at Unbreakable one can’t say he is not talented, maybe just a bit less confident that Tarantino.