The Dirty Harry Collection (18)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD FEATURES: Fully produced additional scenes not seen in theatres introduced by M. Night Shyamalan; Behind the scenes, featuring Bruce Willis; Comic books and superheroes--exclusive feature with Samuel L. Jackson; The train station sequence: multi-angle featurette; An excerpt from an early film of M. Night Shyamalan; Two collectable Alex Ross illustrations; Languages: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Italian. Subtitles: English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Italian.

HIGHLY talented writer/director M Night Shyamalan has re-united with actor Bruce Willis for his follow-up movie to The Sixth Sense - but anyone expecting it to tread a similar path would be very much mistaken.

Unbreakable is a brave, supremely well crafted and surprisingly unique piece of work which will either be loved or hated by movie-goers. As intricately plotted as The Sixth Sense, it differs - and is in many ways superior - by relying less on a single plot twist and instead scatters clues arbitrarily throughout like pieces of a jigsaw for the viewer to gather, assemble and finally complete to reveal the awesome truth.

And even if the simplicity of the denouement proves unsatisfying for some, the startling central performances of Willis and Samuel L Jackson, backed by Shyamalan's masterfully idiosyncratic direction, make for a compulsive few hours.

Willis plays former footballing prodigy turned security guard David Dunn who miraculously survives a train crash which claims the lives of every one of the remaining 118 passengers on the board.

The fact that he emerges completely unscathed, without so much as a scratch, arouses the interest of Elijah Price (Jackson), a mysterious comic book art collector who suffers from a rare condition which renders him so fragile he can break a bone in an instant. Despite being at opposite ends of the mortality spectrum, the similarities between the two are striking to Price, who offers the reluctant Dunn an incredible explanation which threatens to change the course of his life forever.

Could Dunn - whose frustrations at the morbidity of his mundane life are drifting him further from his wife and son by the day - really be some kind of unbreakable hero put on Earth to protect an increasingly apathetic population?

Admittedly, the pitch does sound ridiculous and there are times when viewers might find it difficult not to snigger. But it is a measure of Shyamalan's assured touch as both writer and director that things never become too over the top or far fetched. He eschews the glossy blockbuster special effects and hackneyed action sequences, and instead layers a dark, edgy atmosphere which builds slowly and assuredly towards the stunning climax. Of course with Shyamalan there is a `twist' - it's becoming something of a trademark - and it proves a worthy `last piece of the puzzle' payoff which not only clarifies most of what has preceded, but also unlocks even more enigmatic avenues of thought for the future.

Willis delivers another reserved performance which borders on, but credibly doesn't stray into, Sixth Sense territory. The reactionary unflinching characteristics of his drab and unenthusiastic `everyman' perfectly capture the mood and afford a believable element when the emerging truth comes into stark focus. And Jackson is perfectly cast to chew over the meatier dialogue while managing to neatly side-step the temptation to undermine the excellence of Shyamalan by straying into pantomime exaggeration.

Unbreakable is certainly an example of less being more. It is a slow burning, searching and even creepy character study enlivened by two terrific central performances and some visually arresting direction which should keep the more discerning viewer enthralled. The Sixth Sense arrived like the opening of a champagne bottle, completely blowing audiences away with its innovative audacity. And while this will commercially gain from its predecessor, but probably critically suffer merely by its association, it is far from fair to compare as there is so much more to patiently digest - and ultimately enjoy. If the former was a bravura pop and fizzle champagne treat then this is a vintage fine wine which, while not necessarily to everyone's taste immediately, simply demands respect for its full-bodied eloquence.