Droid defines the Decades best movies – #11 Unbreakable (2000)

unbreakable During the past decade we have been bombarded with superhero movies, each with the intent of explaining the hero’s origin and starting a multi film franchise in the proceedings. ‘Unbreakable’ is the second best of the whole lot. It would place higher on my list if not for one, incredibly infuriating decision by M. Night Shyamalan. But more on that later.

Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) suffers from a debilitating condition known as osteogenesis imperfecta, which makes his bones weaker than usual. A large portion of his childhood was spent in hospital, where he soaked up comic books and their lore. Analysing the characters of good and evil, looking to gain an understanding of the world, and himself. He hypothesises that if he is on one end of the spectrum, their must be someone on the other. Someone who doesn’t get sick, or injured. His search leads him to David Dunn (Bruce Willis) a former college American Football quarterback who is now a middle aged security guard with a troubled marriage and a constant state of depression and regret for decisions he has made in the past. He is also the only survivor of a train crash that killed 131 people. And he is unharmed.

Unbreakable 1 ‘Unbreakable’ was Shyamalan’s third film, and the follow up to the hit ‘The Sixth Sense’. It’s his best (by a long way) and is his most confident and consistent in tone. The reasons why ‘The Village’ and ‘Lady in the Water’ didn’t work is because they were about nothing else but the machinations of the plot. Plus ‘The Village’ was just boring and ridiculous, with an especially annoying performance by Adrian Brody as the village idiot. And by ‘LitW’ Shyamalan was so far up his own ass that he cast himself as ‘the guy who’s writing will change the world’. Not to mention the film critic. More commonly known as Basil Exposition. And then there was ‘The Happening’. Those who have seen it know that it needs no explanation. Wind. Dirk Diggler is trying to outrun the wind. *sigh* And before you ask, yes, I liked Mad Mel vs the Aquaphobes from Outer Space.

Anyway, I digress. ‘Unbreakable’ is a moody, methodical film that expertly allows the plot to unfold. It has the confidence to put clues and necessary information right in front of us. But it’s leisurely pace and the drama of Davids personal life, and search for explanation and discovery puts us off guard and we don’t seize on those clues immediately. The ending has a twist, to be sure, but unlike ‘The Sixth Sense’ or ‘The Village’, where it’s all about hiding the twist, ‘Unbreakable’ shows us it’s cards from the start. There’s a sense of inevitability about the story. It was always going to end this way, and these revelations were always going to be, but for some reason, the first time I watched it, I didn’t knowingly guess it. To be honest I don’t think I even tried. I was enjoying the film too much. The same thing happened when I watched ‘The Usual Suspects’.

‘Unbreakable’ also plays on our sympathy to help it mask the truth. Elijah, known as ‘Mr Glass’ to taunting kids, has such a sad story that we immediately sympathise with him. And this is where I bring up the performances. First of all, this is one of Samuel L. Jacksons best. Right behind ‘Amos & Andrew’. I’m kidding. The performance is filled with anger and pain, and you can see that life has taken it’s toll on him psychologically. Jackson plays Elijah always on the verge of one of his famous bug eyed ear splitting rants. And Bruce Willis plays David with such regret, melancholy and, when he begins his discovery, hope. His relationship with his estranged wife Audrey (Robin Wright Penn) and son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) is actually quite involving, and the scene towards the end where he slides the paper over so Joseph can see the front page is a great moment.

Shyamalan plays a lot with the camera in this film. During scenes with Elijah, there are many shots composed from reflection on glass, like the tv or in mirrors. And the scene where David is in the hospital and learns that the dying man in the foreground of the shot was the only other person found alive in the wreckage of the derailed train is a single shot and very effective. The score by James Newton Howard is at times a little intrusive, but there’s not doubting the power of it in particular scenes, especially the end scenes where David confronts a nasty piece of work, and then learns the truth about Elijah.

Which brings me finally to my pet peeve with ‘Unbreakable’. The end. Right at the bloody end Shyamalan has the stupidity to freeze the shot and insert text to explain subsequent events. It is a complete and utter miscalculation and almost ruins a terrific moment of revelation and the power of Elijah talking as David walks out the door. I don’t want to know what David did next, or what happened to Elijah. Unless you’re going to do a sequel then leave it at that. I personally think that the studio (or Shyamalan) got nervous about the ambiguity of the ending and slotted the text in. It’s such a shame because it’s almost a perfect origin story, and is all the more unique and powerful because it feels realistic.

So, because of that ending ‘Unbreakable’ drops down the list a few places. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a terrific film, with great performances and serves as proof that M. Night Shyamalan does indeed have talent when he’s not writing screenplays about a killer breeze.


The list so far…

#12 – Best in Show (2000)

#13 – Open Range (2003)

#14 – The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

#15 – Bad Santa (2003)

#16 – The Hurt Locker (2009)

#17 – Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

#18 – Kingdom of Heaven (2005) Directors Cut

#19 – High Fidelity (2000)

#20 – Friday Night Lights (2004)

#21 – Frequency (2000)


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About Judge Droid

In between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.

52 responses to “Droid defines the Decades best movies – #11 Unbreakable (2000)”

  1. lordbronco says :

    This was good flick-I myself didn’t fixate on the end so much-but what the heck.

  2. herrmilflover says :

    Never got around to this one, and I have no excuse either, other than I thought Sixth Sense was lame and wont bother with M Night’s gimmicks.

    Now I feel shame.

    And why you dissin’ Amos & Andrew, it was a fun movie!

    • Droid says :

      For shame, milf! For shame!

      I recommend you check it out. It’s a good flick.

      To be honest I saw Amos & Andrew so very long ago that I barely remember it. So I used the reference mainly for giggles.

  3. xiphos0311 says :

    serves as proof that M. Night Shyamalan does indeed have talent

    HAD that’s the word you got wrong and I sort of question had a bit.

    • Continentalop says :

      Yes Xi. M. Night and Cokey McFrankenhead are two guys who’s massive Egos (visible from space) have interferred with their ability to make an f’ing movie. Now they just make fucking drivel.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        I never cared for CokeHeaD he was/is over hyped by shitbag hipsters that thought he was “cool”. His one legitimate good movie was all due to Elmore Leonard. Pulp Fiction was awful, Inglorious Assturds is awful and insulting, ditto for Death Proof except for the car sequences and Snake minus the crying at the end. Reservoir Dogs is OK but had limited rewatchability.

        Now Ding Dong on the other hand showed some genuine skill and talent in his first two movies and the first 20 minutes of his third; then he fucking flushed all his skills and talent right down the shitter for the rest of his movies. The Crappening made me think that Night is in fact functionally retarded.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Xi, that ‘retarded’ line cracked me the fuck up! Probably because it is true!

      • xiphos0311 says :

        The Crappening actually makes me believe that Night is past functional retardisim.

      • Continentalop says :

        I disagree. QT might be a functional retard (just look at that Frankenberry noggin and tell me that isn’t mongoloid like) but M. Night Shamalamadingdong is just fucking delusional. I bet you he hears voices in his head.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        yeah he hears voices, his own, that says everything he’s done is great and don’t ever change and always cast yourself in every movie with increasingly larger parts. In non-delusional land everybody else figured out Night has hack tendencies about 20 minutes into Signs.

        The first two movies were good though I’ll give him that. Unbreakable is probably one of the best origin stories out there. Which isn’t saying much because origin stories suck by definition.

  4. koutchboom says :

    Man this was on the other day but I had to leave. I wanted to stay and finish watching it. Good stuff. I really wish he had gotten to finish this trilogy instead of whatever else he pooped out.

  5. koutchboom says :

    M. Knight was the BOMB with Stuart Little. Anyone seen his Nun on the Run or whatever its called with Rosie in it?

  6. jarv says :

    This is a good film, but that end is an absolute dealbreaker for me.

    And fuck yourself. Cunt

    • xiphos0311 says :

      Who’s the cunt and why?

    • Droid says :

      Seconded. Do you have terrets?

    • Jarv says :

      Droid is.

      For many reasons, but this time for italicising “American”. Unless it wasn’t a dig at my hungover review, in which case, humble apologies.

      What the fuck is terrets? Some kind of Aussie ailment?

    • Droid says :


      In other words, you are mentally deficient.

      • Jarv says :

        Which would be great if you didn’t mean Tourette’s Syndrome.


        Which is doubly funny, as the site you just linked to even has the proper spelling.

      • Droid says :

        That’s the fucking joke, numbnuts. Sheesh! You must be struggling today, boozy.

      • Jarv says :

        Not a blundering typo or anything?

        Whatever- bet you were ecstatic when that site turned up on your google of the misspelling.

        No shame in typos.

      • Droid says :

        Yes, chuckles. Keep babbling your pigheaded insistence that it didn’t slip past you.

      • Jarv says :

        I own up to it “slipping by me”, because it wasn’t funny to begin with, and there was absolutely no frame of reference that it was a deliberate error.

        If it was a joke then *crickets*. Otherwise, you keep pretending you didn’t fuck up, that’ll make it alright.

      • Droid says :

        Whether you consider it funny is neither here nor there. It is what it is. I made a comment, you made an assumption which turned out to be incorrect and here we are.

        Ongoing, I’ll try to remember that you require a “frame of reference”. Hopefully that will cease any confusion in the future.

      • Jarv says :

        I’m not getting into this row again, as it never goes well, so I’m going to leave it.

        Sometimes, and I’m not joking here, a joke just doesn’t work.

        But that’s my last word on this, because this is pissing me off a bit now, and I don’t want to fuck things up over something silly.

      • Droid says :

        Just in case you thought I was trying to bait you, my previous post was also intended to bring this convo to a close.

        Case closed. Time to move on.

      • Jarv says :

        I thought it was, actually, which is why I got a bit pissed.

        End of row- cuddles?

      • Droid says :

        Yes, well I admit that it does read a bit snarky.

        All is well. But I’ll leave the cuddles. I haven’t had my inoculations.

  7. Droid says :

    I apologise. A mere typo. I did indeed mean the sport which is played by Flash Gordon.

  8. Droid says :

    Yep, still doing it. Cheeky git. Halfway through and got one review in the bag so only 9 MORE to go.

    I understand why you didn’t like Unbreakable that much.

    a) It was released in cinemas.

    b) No boob.

    c) No DTV sequels starring has been rappers or The Hoff.

  9. Hawaiian Organ Donor says :

    While I totally respect everyone’s opinion who liked this movie, the whole thing of Bruce being “Unbreakable” really pissed me off. I got into an argument with some knucklehead on AICN a few years back and what I basically said was this: assuming Bruce’s character is in his late 30’s, I can’t see someone going that long without realizing they are different. To never suffer a cold, papercut, burn, pulled muscle or INJURY as a GODDAMN FOOTBALL PLAYER would raise a red flag at some point. I mean, you just don’t go almost 40 years without suffering so much as a scratch and not think that maybe you got something going on. For me that was a dealbreaker.

    • koutchboom says :

      I don’t know I had a roomate that was pretty stupid and addmitted to never being sick a day in his life or something like that. Actually his personality reminded me a lot of Bruces in the movie. I think they tried to make him sort of a dumb guy who just didn’t connect shit like that.

      • Hawaiian Organ Donor says :

        OK, but in the course of your life, how many times have you done something that hurt like hell? Like slam your finger in a door, burn yourself on something hot, take a ht in rugby………I mean, without even having a concept of pain like Willis obviously because he couldn’t feel it I’m guessing, these are still things you instinctlively know should “hurt”. Not realizing you didn’t just suffer from a paper cut is one thing, but I think we’ve all taken extreme tumbles in life that left us in pain and knocked the wind out of us and and we gotten up like nothing happened, then you gotta think a light would go off.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        I totally agree with you HOD. As far as liking unbreakable, well it was just an ok flick to me. I never rated it as high as some, but to each his own.

      • koutchboom says :

        I mean they played up parts of his life where he was unsure how he didn’t die. I think he was just afraid of it more then anything. I mean what did you expect him to do? Its sort of like how they always show mutants trying to hide their powers.

      • herrmilflover says :

        Oh great, now if I do see the movie, all I’m gonna think about is how did he never realize he was unbreakable? Thanks for ruining it for ma haha.

        By that line of logic, you can also wonder: how can he get a haircut, shave or even clip his nails? Or is he circumsized? How did they cut the umbilical cord?

      • herrmilflover says :

        That should have read ‘ruined for me’, not ma.
        My mom doesnt like movies much, unless they’re old westerns, stuff like Ben-Hur/Ten Commandments, or Columbo’s in it.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        I wanna see the Columbo takes on the Pharoah episode. That would rock.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        MILF you have to invoke the X Men rule. No mutation present until puberty. After that well questions abound.

      • herrmilflover says :

        X-Men Rule was just Stan Lee running out of ideas for character origins.
        They couldnt always be in random radiation accidents, so he just thought “Eh, they’re born like that!”.

  10. Tom_Bando says :

    My fave Shymalion flick (by Far) is Signs. Really like it.

    This one I put at #3-as the one where the kid ‘sees Fred People’ did make an impression, too. Two of these three starred Bruce–so can’t be all bad.

    Now as for Cokey–I agree w/ Noted_Sage Xiphos completely(izzat bad? oh well-), I really REALLY dislike his movies save for Reservoir Dogs. I get what he’s doing-okay he overdosed on Kojak, the Seven-Ups and Bruce Lee-but so?! you Should be able to take that stuff and make good movies, but instead he goes and foists Cinematic Verbal Dysentary on us w/ DEATH PROOF. I H*A*T*E DEATHPROOF.. FUCK DEATHPROOF.

    Thank you.

  11. Toadkillerdog says :


    I just saw one the most kick ass movies that I have ever ever seen!


    HOLY FUCKING SHIT! That was great!

    They did some things in this movie I have never seen, some of the most fucked up action filled insane people breaking bones for real shit on film.

    Dude held a little girl upside down as a shield then threw her into the street!
    Then the other dude proceeded to kick the unholy shit out of him.
    Punches that had to hit – no way they could be faked, gun shot kills!

    Wow! Maybe y’all have seen this movie but it was a first for me!

    • xiphos0311 says :

      Never heard of it. Besides using children as shields(a move I endorse) what is it about?

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Xi, it was seven levels of awesome. It was made in 2007 but was set in 1997 right before the changeover of HK to the mainland. A cop Donnie Yen, trying to take down a drug dealer. One of the most viscious movies i have ever seen. Just awesome. The kid shield was cool, but when he threw her into the street and she hit the curb and they showed her all fucked up, dang that was some shit.

        The fighting was really intense some really good kills

    • herrmilflover says :

      Is that the Donnie Yen movie? I havent seen that one.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Yup! Go see it now! I give it a very high recommendation

      • Hawaiian Organ Donor says :

        The end fight scene in the village where they are punching and kicking each other through walls was awesome.

        If you liked this movie Toad then you will absolutely love Invisible Target and Kill Zone. Both movies have insane amounts of bone breaking and unique kills.

  12. Toadkillerdog says :

    It takes a while to build up, but once it gets going, amazing.

    • Continentalop says :

      Toad, have you seen Harry Brown with Michael Caine? Because that is a very kickass film. Old guy shooting and stabbing punk kids. My dream when I retire and live on a pension.

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