The big surprise ending of “Unbreakable” is what a disappointment it is.
The writer/director of “The Sixth Sense” begins with many of the same elements — Bruce Willis, a Philadelphia setting, a strained marriage, a child who is grappling with some big issues, elements of the supernatural, and a twist at the end. Once again, he creates a haunting and portentous mood with subdued performances, somber hues, and fluid camera movements. But unlike “The Sixth Sense,” in which a surprise at the end kicked the entire movie into a higher gear (and inspired audiences to go see it again to help them unravel it), this one has an ending that inspired hoots and boos at the screening I attended. In particular, the “what happens after the movie ends” description that come up on the screen just before the credits is the worst I have ever seen.
Bruce Willis plays David Dunn, a security guard who seems disconnected from his own life, unable to remember very much about his past and unwilling to connect to his wife and child. When he is the only survivor of a train crash, walking away without a single injury, bruise, or scratch, he is contacted by Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a comic art dealer who has a congenital bone disease. Price has bones that break easily; Dunn has bones that never break. Price believes there must be a connection, and that he must help Dunn find his destiny.
Comic book themes of good and evil, hero and enemy, strength and vulnerability, thesis and antithesis, and destiny and choice appear throughout the movie. Several times, characters see something upside down at first, and then have to turn it around to see it clearly. Price helps Dunn realize that he is more than a security guard. He is a protector. When Dunn begins to use his gifts, he begins to lose the sadness that has always engulfed him. When he tells his wife he had a nightmare, he is not referring to the murderer he has just battled but to a past in which he was able to sense tragedy around him but was not aware that he had the ability to protect people from it.
Parents should know that this movie has a lot of violence. Although most of it is offscreen, its themes, including sexual assault, murder of the parents of two children, and genocide, may be especially disturbing. A child uses a gun. There is a brief vulgar reference and an implication of date rape.
Families who see this movie should talk about how we find our “place in the world,” and the importance of recognizing our special gifts so that we can make the best use of them. If members of the family enjoy comic books, they may want to talk about the tradition of pictoral story-telling, the themes of hero and arch-villain and what makes them so enduring. We often think of good guys and bad guys as opposites, but we should also think about what they have in common.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “The Sixth Sense” and a better teaming of Willis and Jackson in “Die Hard: With a Vengeance.”