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🎬 #43 M. Night Shyamalan's Best Film.
M. Night is a filmmaker who was once hailed as the new Speilberg. He then fell out of favour for a while but now in recent years he’s made a comeback by focusing on smaller stories that kind of made him who he was in the first place.
Yet for all the films he’s made, he’s probably best known for his huge breakout film The Sixth Sense. The film that dominated everyone’s imagination with its twist ending and that is what he became famous for, the designer of the twist ending.
As powerful as that film is because of its ending, I think it’s Shyamalan’s follow-up that really shows how great of a filmmaker he can be and for this reason is the only film this week.
2000 Dir M. Night Shyamalan
I sadly admit that I first saw this film via a really terrible DVD pirate from my brother’s friend. But even through the barely audible dialogue and muddy camcordered visuals, I really loved it. It took hold of me with the promise of its premise and over delivered. I’ve enjoyed it as much, if not more, the more I’ve seen it over the years, especially when I could actually see and hear the film as it was intended.
M. Night’s film, pre-Marvel and DC Universe, tells the story of a normal man becoming a ‘normal’ hero. He takes the origin story and gives it a grey rainy Tuesday treatment. The story of what a super hero might actually resemble in the every day practical world we all occupy.
It’s a strange thing to say but this might be his most ‘directed’ film. Every shot choice, wardrobe, set dressing and location decision all points sharply towards the themes that Shyamalan centres on - calling, duty, family, security, heroism and the expectations of super heroism, of those people who live under the cloak. In the first few mins David Dunn played by Bruce Willis takes off his wedding ring so that the attractive woman next to him doesn’t see it. Hardly the behaviour of a ‘hero’ but it’s through this kind of resigned man, in a life he doesn’t seem to want to be apart of, with a son he’s kind of annoyed by, that a hero’s journey unfolds, as reluctant as it might be. In fact I think the thing that David Dunn’s hero ultimately saves is his family and by extension, himself. From out of the ‘sadness’ that he feels every morning he kind of resurrects himself. Pulling himself up and above a normal life that made him feel like he wasn’t doing what he was meant to be doing.
One moment that really stands out for me, to this point, is when David carries his estranged wife back up to their marital bed. M. Night keeps the camera locked on a mid of Audrey [played by Robyn Wright] her asleep in his arms, floating up the stairs - as if he’s flying her there. The classic male superhero shot applied to the domestic action of a man showing love for his wife again, and in turn helping to save their relationship. The iconography of super-heroism lies everywhere - the rain mac that Dunn wears as his security job in a stadium becomes his cloak and cowl, the stadium architecture is gladiatorial, one of the ‘villains,’ is in a bright orange jump suit he wears to work - the opposite of the dark green of Dunn’s ‘costume.’ The duality or reflective quality of good and evil also hinted at the in upside-down framing, the twisting, gliding steadicam movements that reveal key details. But these are all housed in the normal and the every day. Exemplified by the fact that the ‘big’ fight scene is one on one, with a man in a bedroom captured casually in one or two shots by M.Night, letting the camera follow the movements of the action, rather than stage elaborate choreographed action set-pieces. The scale is grounded and purposely within domestic confines - this is a world we are all familiar with and at home in. Even the performances are muted and normal, and I mean this as a great compliment.
This may also be Samuel L. Jackson’s finest performance and by far, most interesting role. He’s the man who inspired Dunn to think beyond the normal confines of his life when he emerges as the sole survivor of a train crash. By simply asking, ‘how many days have you been sick?’ He starts a chain reaction that creates the hero we are left with at the end, a normal man who becomes an every day hero.
TL;DR Why should I spend 1 hours 46 mins of my life watching this? Shyamalan’s second collaboration with Bruce Willis is his finest hour and 46 minutes - embrace his handling of the superhero fable, in low key domesticity, as a normal man discovers he may be Unbreakable.
*Available for free to Amazon and Disney Plus subscribers and for a small rental fee on YouTube, Google Play, Apple, and SkyStore.
Fact: The entire film was crafted from the first third of a much longer script written by Shyamalan.