Unbreakable: Slow Burning Psychology

If you haven’t seen this film, you may have heard about it from the ending scene of Shyamalan's film “Split”:

A man in a diner looks at someone chatting about a guy in a wheelchair.

"What did they call him?" the person asks.

“Mr. Glass,” the man answers, then slowly sips his coffee.

This is David Dunn. Husband, father, security guard and superhero.

Released in 2000, “Unbreakable” follows David as he miraculously survives a train crash and tries to figure out how he survived without getting a single scratch.

Elijah Price, a comic book gallery owner born with brittle bones, approaches David and suggests that the truth may be he has unusual powers.

Like “Darkman,” “Unbreakable” fuses superheroes with another genre -- in this case, thrillers.

The story unfolds more like a Hitchcock movie than like anything else, with many scenes being nothing but mind games and people trying to figure out their relationships.

Unlike “Darkman,” this movie isn’t about crossing two genres and seeing how they inform each other.

“Unbreakable” is about stripping a superhero’s origin of almost everything we associate with it, to focus on just one aspect.

There are very few action scenes in “Unbreakable,” and when they arrive they’re pretty low maintenance for a superhero film.

The cinematography has a minimalist feel, except in some scenes where David discovers his latent telepathy powers.

The pace is slow and sometimes has no dialogue, much like the Kansas scenes in Richard Donner’s movie “Superman.”

What’s left in a superhero story without explosions and comic timing then?

Psychology. Mythology.

As Elijah says during his first meeting with David, comic books can be seen as a form of pictographs, like the hieroglyphics ancient Egyptians used to tell stories.

Many of those Egyptian stories were about mythological heroes, people with otherworldly powers.

David Dunn has to figure out if he’s like that, a seemingly normal person with godlike abilities.

Like the Dark Knight trilogy, "Unbreakable" asks, “what does it look like being a superhero in the real world?”

What’s it mean to be godlike in a world of mortals?

How do your abilities affect your family?

Do you have to use your powers to do extraordinary things or can you live a normal life?

As we watch David discover his powers and how that affects people around him, we explore all these questions.

“Let’s think about what it means to be a god,” the movie seems to say. “Let’s not talk too much, let’s just think about it. Ruminate on it. Savor the sheer awesomeness of that idea.”

Report this Content

More on Odyssey

Facebook Comments