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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Unbreakable is a 2000 M. Night Shyamalan movie in which Bruce Willis plays a security guard who begins to understand that he has special powers. Although most of the violence is either brief or offscreen, there are some disturbing scenes. A family is held hostage by a home invader--the father is briefly shown dead in the stairwell while the rest of the family is tied up to radiators looking traumatized. An African-American standing on a street corner is hit in the head with a bottle by a man in a moving car who yells "Go back to Africa!" Strongly implied date rape (not shown) of a young woman passed out in a bed at a party. The son of the lead character pulls a gun on him and threatens to shoot him as a way to prove that the lead character is impervious to injury. News footage and discussion of various disasters--natural and manmade. News footage of a train derailment in which nearly everyone is killed. One reference made to masturbation. Infrequent profanity.
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What's the story?
UNBREAKABLE stars Bruce Willis as 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. 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.
Is it any good?
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 appears onscreen just before the credits is the worst I have ever seen.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about pop culture conceptions of "good versus evil." What are some of the ways in which this movie plays with themes often explored in comic books--the "reluctant hero" for instance, or the hero who doesn't realize they have the abilities of a superhero?
What are some other indirect ways in which the movie references the comic book aesthetic--the clothing colors of the lead characters, for instance?
M. Night Shyamalan has a distinctive style to his movies. What are some of the features of that style? Who are some other film directors with a distinct style?
- In theaters: November 22, 2000
- On DVD or streaming: June 26, 2001
- Cast: Bruce Willis, Robin Wright, Samuel L. Jackson
- Director: M. Night Shyamalan
- Studio: Touchstone Pictures
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Superheroes
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic elements including some disturbing violent content, and for a crude sexual reference
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