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Unbreakable (film)

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Title: Unbreakable (film)  
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Subject: M. Night Shyamalan, Robin Wright, Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Mercer, Barry Mendel
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Unbreakable (film)

Movie poster showing the head of a man on the top right looking to the left. At the center of the image is a man wearing a raincoat, as the film's title overlaps him. At the bottom of the image is the head of another man looking to the right. Cracks are shown across the image. Text at the top and bottom of the image lists the starring roles, the credits, and tagline.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Produced by Barry Mendel
Sam Mercer
M. Night Shyamalan
Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Starring Bruce Willis
Samuel L. Jackson
Robin Wright
Spencer Treat Clark
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Eduardo Serra
Edited by Dylan Tichenor
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • November 14, 2000 (2000-11-14) (premiere)
  • November 22, 2000 (2000-11-22) (United States)
Running time 106 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $75 million[1]
Box office $248,118,121[1]

Unbreakable is a 2000 American superhero thriller film written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. Unbreakable tells the story of Philadelphia security guard David Dunn, who slowly discovers that he possesses superhuman abilities.

Shyamalan planned Unbreakable to parallel a comic book's traditional three-part story structure. After settling on the origin story, Shyamalan wrote the screenplay as a speculative script with Willis already set to star in the film and Jackson in mind to portray Elijah Price. Filming for Unbreakable began in April 2000 and finished that following July.

Unbreakable received generally positive reviews,[2] praising the superhero theme, the acting performances and musical score by James Newton Howard. The film has subsequently gained a strong cult following[3]and Time listed the film as one of the top ten superhero movies of all time.[4]


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Development 3
    • Production 3.1
    • Music 3.2
  • Comic book references 4
  • Reception 5
    • Box office 5.1
    • Critical Response 5.2
    • Awards and nominations 5.3
  • Cancelled sequel 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) is born with Type I osteogenesis imperfecta, a rare disease in which bones break easily. As revealed later in flashbacks, Elijah draws a theory on comic books he has read during his many hospital stays to, if he is frail at one extreme, then perhaps there is someone "unbreakable" at the opposite extreme.

Years later, security guard David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is also searching for meaning in his life. He had given up a promising football career to marry Audrey (Robin Wright) after they were involved in an auto accident. Now, however, their marriage is dissolving, to the distress of their young son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark). Returning from a job interview in New York, David is the sole survivor of a major train wreck that kills 131 passengers, sustaining no injuries himself. He is contacted by Elijah, who proposes to David that he is the kind of person after whom comic-book superheroes are modeled. David tries to ignore him, but Elijah stalks him and his wife, trying to get his attention. To relieve his family from further distress, David finally agrees to hear Elijah out, and begins to test himself. While lifting weights with Joseph, he bench presses approximately 350 pounds, well above what he had thought he could do. Joseph begins to idolize his father and believes that he is a superhero.

Hoping that he might share his father's abilities, Joseph confronts bullies at school, but is injured. Later, Joseph threatens to fire David's loaded pistol at him to prove that his father would not die. David talks him out of it by threatening to move to New York.

Under Elijah's influence, David develops what he thought was an unusual insight into human behavior into an extra-sensory perception by which he can glimpse criminal acts committed by the people he touches.

David challenges Elijah with an incident from his childhood when he almost drowned. Elijah suggests that the incident highlights his one weakness: water. While examining the wreckage of the train crash that he survived, David recalls the car accident that ended his athletics career, remembering that he was unharmed and ripped a door off the car in order to save Audrey. David used the accident as an excuse to quit football, because Audrey hated the sport. At Elijah's suggestion, David walks through a crowd in a Philadelphia train station, sensing crimes perpetrated by strangers who brush past him: a jewel robbery, a hate crime, and a rape. The one he can act on is a sadistic janitor who invaded a home, killed the parents and is holding the children chained up inside their home. David follows the janitor in the rain to the victims' house. He frees the children, but is ambushed by the janitor who pushes him off a balcony into a swimming pool. David nearly drowns but is rescued by the children. He grapples with the janitor, ultimately strangling him to death. That night, he reconciles with Audrey. The following morning, he secretly shows the newspaper article of his anonymous heroic act to his son.

David attends an exhibition at Elijah's comic book art gallery and meets Elijah's mother (Charlayne Woodard). After talking with Elijah in the back room of his studio, David shakes his hand and sees visions indicating that Elijah orchestrated the three fatal disasters he had mentioned, including David's train accident, causing hundreds of deaths. Elijah insists the deaths were justified as a means to find David. Calling himself 'Mr. Glass' (based on a nickname he was teased with in school), he explains that his own purpose in life is to be David's antithesis, David being the hero and he the arch-villain.

Screen captions reveal that David exposed Elijah to the police, and that Elijah was convicted of engineering the disasters and committed to an institution for the criminally insane.




When M. Night Shyamalan conceived the idea for Unbreakable, the outline had a comic book's traditional three-part structure (the superhero's "birth", his struggles against general evil-doers, and the hero's ultimate battle against the "archenemy"). Finding the birth section most interesting, he decided to write Unbreakable as an origin story. During the filming of The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan had already approached Bruce Willis for the lead role of David Dunn.[5] With Willis and Samuel L. Jackson specifically in mind for the two leading characters, Shyamalan began to write Unbreakable as a spec script[6] during post-production on The Sixth Sense.[7]

With the financial and critical success of The Sixth Sense in August 1999, Shyamalan gave Walt Disney Studios a first look deal for Unbreakable. In return, Disney purchased Shyamalan's screenplay at a "spec script record" for $5 million. He was also given another $5 million to direct. Disney decided to release Unbreakable under their Touchstone banner, and also helped Shyamalan establish his own production company, Blinding Edge Pictures.[8] Julianne Moore dropped out of portraying Audrey, David's wife, in favor of her role as Clarice Starling in Hannibal. Robin Wright Penn was cast in her place.[9] Principal photography began on April 25, 2000 and ended that July. The majority of filming took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the film's setting.[10]

Shyamalan and cinematographer Eduardo Serra chose several camera angles to simulate the look of a comic book panel. Various visual narrative motifs were also applied. Several scenes relating to the Mr. Glass character involve glass. As a newborn, he is primarily seen reflected in mirrors, and as a young child, he is seen reflected in a blank TV screen. When he leaves his calling card on the windshield of David Dunn's car, he is reflected in a glass frame in his art gallery. Jackson requested his walking stick be made of glass to make his character more menacing. Using purple as Mr. Glass' color to David Dunn's green was also Jackson's idea.[11] Mr. Glass' wig was modeled after Afro-American statesman Frederick Douglass.[5] As he does in his other films, Shyamalan makes a cameo appearance. He plays a man David suspects of dealing drugs inside the stadium. More than 15 minutes of footage was deleted during post-production of Unbreakable. These scenes are available on the DVD release.[12]

Willis and Jackson had previously worked together on Die Hard with a Vengeance, Pulp Fiction and Loaded Weapon 1.


Film score composer James Newton Howard was approached by Shyamalan to work on Unbreakable immediately after scoring The Sixth Sense. "He sat there and storyboarded the whole movie for me", Howard said. "I've never had a director do that for me."[13] Shyamalan wanted a "singularity" tone for the music. "He wanted something that was very different, very distinctive, that immediately evoked the movie when people heard it,"[13] Howard explained. Howard and Shyamalan chose to simplify the score, and minimized the number of instruments (strings, trumpets and piano), with limited orchestrations. Some compositions were recorded in a converted church in London. "You could have recorded the same music in a studio in Los Angeles, and it would have been great, but there is something about the sound of that church studio," Howard remarked. "It's definitely more misterioso."[13]

Comic book references

Filmmaker and comic book writer Kevin Smith felt Unbreakable was briefly similar to a comic book titled Mage: The Hero Discovered. Written and illustrated by Matt Wagner, Mage follows a wizard who convinces an Average Joe to try to find out if he is a superhero. Both Unbreakable and Mage are set in Philadelphia. Elvis Mitchell from The New York Times mentioned the visual similarities between David Dunn on patrol in his poncho and the DC Comics character known as The Spectre.[14]

As in comic books, the main characters have their identified color schemes. David's is green and Elijah's is purple. The colors show up in their clothes, the wallpaper and bed sheets in their houses, Elijah's note to David, and various personal items.[5] The people whose bad deeds are sensed by David are identified by an article of clothing in a single bright color (red, orange), to contrast them with the dark and dreary color scheme typical of the rest of the movie (but not of most comic books). Several scenes also depict characters through reflections or doorways, as if framing them in a picture similar to comic books.[5]


Box office

Unbreakable was released in the United States on November 22, 2000 in 2,708 theaters and grossed $30,330,771 in its opening weekend ranking #2 at the box office. The film ended up earning $95,011,339 domestically and $153,106,782 internationally for a total of $248,118,121, above its 75 million production budget.[15]

Critical Response

Unbreakable received mostly positive reviews from critics and has a rating of 68% on Rotten tomatoes based on 160 reviews with an average score of 6.3 out of 10. The consensus states "With a weaker ending, Unbreakable is not as a good as The Sixth Sense. However, it is a quietly suspenseful film that intrigues and engages, taking the audience through unpredictable twists and turns along the way."[16] The film also has a score of 62 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 31 critics indicating Generally favorable reviews.[17]

Roger Ebert largely enjoyed the film, but was disappointed with the ending. Ebert believed that Willis' "subtle acting" was positively different from the actor's usual work in "brainless action movies".[18] Richard Corliss of Time magazine reviewed that Unbreakable continued Shyamalan's writing/direction of "balancing sophistication and horror in all of his movies".[19] Desson Thomson from The Washington Post wrote that "just as he did in The Sixth Sense, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan leads you into a fascinating labyrinth, an alternative universe that lurks right under our noses. In this case, it's the mythological world and, in these modern times, the secret design to that labyrinth, the key to the path, is contained in comic books."[20]

Kenneth Turan, writing in the Los Angeles Times, gave a negative review, arguing that Unbreakable had no originality. "Whether it means to or not, the shadow of The Sixth Sense hangs over Unbreakable," Turan reasoned. "If The Sixth Sense hadn't been as big a success as it was, this story might have been assigned to oblivion, or at least to rewrite."[21] Todd McCarthy of Variety mostly criticized Shyamalan's writing and the performances given by the actors. He did praise Dylan Tichenor's editing and James Newton Howard's music composition.[22]

Shyamalan admitted he was disappointed by the reaction Unbreakable received from the public and critics.[23] Shyamalan also disliked Touchstone Pictures' marketing campaign. He wanted to promote Unbreakable as a comic book movie, but Touchstone insisted on portraying it as a psychological thriller, similar to The Sixth Sense.[24]

In 2009, Oscar-winning filmmaker Quentin Tarantino praised Unbreakable, and included it on his list of the top 20 films to be released since 1992, the year he became a director. Tarantino praised the film as a "brilliant retelling of the Superman mythology." He noted that he considers it to contain Bruce Willis' best performance and that the film would have been better marketed with the question "what if Superman was here on earth, and didn't know he was Superman?"[25] In 2011, Time ranked the film at #4 in its list of top ten superhero movies of all time, describing it as one of the best superhero origin stories and as a "relatively quiet, subtle and realistic look at the pressures that come with being a superhero."[4]

Awards and nominations

Award Subject Nominee Result
Saturn Award Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film Nominated
Black Reel Award Best Film Poster Nominated
Golden Trailer Award Best Horror/Thriller Film Won
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Actor - Suspense Bruce Willis Nominated
Samuel L. Jackson Nominated
Favorite Supporting Actor - Suspense Spencer Treat Clark Nominated
Favorite Supporting Actress - Suspense Robin Wright Nominated
Bram Stoker Award Best Screenplay M. Night Shayamalan Nominated
Nebula Award Best Script Nominated
Sierra Award Best Score James Newton Howard Nominated
International Horror Guild Award Best Film Nominated

Cancelled sequel

After the film's release, rumors of possible sequels began circulating on different interview and in film fansites. In 2000, Bruce Willis was quoted as hoping for an Unbreakable trilogy.[26] In December 2000, Shyamalan denied rumors he wrote Unbreakable as the first installment of a trilogy, saying he was not even thinking about it.[26] In August 2001, Shyamalan stated that, because of successful DVD sales, he had approached Touchstone Pictures about an Unbreakable sequel, an idea Shyamalan said the studio originally turned down because of the film's poor box office performance.[27] In a September 2008 article, Shyamalan and Samuel L. Jackson said there was some discussion of a sequel when the film was being made, but that it mostly died with the poor box office. Jackson said he was still interested in a sequel but Shyamalan was non-committal.[28] In February 2010, Willis said that Shyamalan was "still thinking about doing the fight movie between me and Sam that we were going to do", and stated that as long as Jackson was able to participate he would be "up for it".[29] In September 2010, Shyamalan revealed that the second planned villain from the first film was moved to the planned sequel, but that character has now been used for an upcoming film that he will write and produce.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Unbreakable".  
  2. ^ "Unbreakable:Review".  
  3. ^ "The Charts".  
  4. ^ a b Cruz, Gilbert (June 3, 2011). "Top 10 Superhero Movies: 4. Unbreakable (2000)".  
  5. ^ a b c d e M. Night Shyamalan, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Barry Mendel, Sam Mercer, Eduardo Serra, James Newton Howard, The Making of Unbreakable, 2001, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
  6. ^ Christopher John Farley (2000-11-27). "A New Day Dawns For Night".  
  7. ^ "Movie Preview: Nov. 22".  
  8. ^ Angelina Chen; Michael Fleming (1999-12-15). "'"Deal makes 'Sense.  
  9. ^ Staff (2000-03-02). "Inside Moves".  
  10. ^ Charles Lyons (2000-01-14). "'"Moore gets 'Break.  
  11. ^ Unrelated to this movie, Jackson asked lightsaber in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones."Samuel L. Jackson". Inside the Actors Studio. Bravo. 2002-06-02.
  12. ^ Deleted Scenes With M. Night Shyamalan, 2001, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
  13. ^ a b c Rick Lyman (2000-11-24). "At The Movies: A Full Plate For the Holidays".  
  14. ^ Scott Brown (2000-12-06). "Comic Belief".  
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^  
  19. ^  
  20. ^  
  21. ^  
  22. ^ Todd McCarthy (2000-11-20). "Unbreakable".  
  23. ^ Daniel Fierman (2002-08-02). "Night of the Living Dread".  
  24. ^ Weiner, Allison Hope (2008-06-02). "Shyamalan's Hollywood Horror Story —". Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  25. ^ "Tarantino's Top 20 Movies Since 1992".  
  26. ^ a b Brian Linder (2000-12-05). "Willis' Unbreakable Trilogy Hopes Shattered".  
  27. ^ Olly Richards (2001-08-01). "An Unbreakable Sequel?".  
  28. ^ Casey Seijas (2008-09-18). "Samuel L. Jackson, M. Night Shyamalan On The ‘Unbreakable’ Sequel That Never Was, But Might Be".  
  29. ^ Marshall, Rick (2010-02-22). "'"Bruce Willis Says M. Night Shyamalan 'Still Thinking' About 'Unbreakable 2.  
    Gibron, Bill (2010-02-24). Unbreakable 2' on the Horizon?"'".  

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