The worst thing about Hollywood films today is their utter predictability.
If you have seen the trailer, you've usually seen the best parts of the film.
That is because most films are pitched at filmgoers between the ages of 13 and 15 -- the single largest moviegoing audience today. If you are in this age group or close to it, you know that you are a lot smarter than studio execs think you are, but sadly, they don't seem to know that.
That's what makes apna desi bhidu Manoj Night Shyamalan's films such a treat.
I mean, look at this dude. Young, Indian, a newcomer on the movie scene. Yet he is already responsible for one of the 15 biggest film hits of all time, Sixth Sense.
He is one of the most sought after and highly paid screenwriters in Hollywood.
And he has pulled off another movie miracle with Unbreakable.
Talk about Unbreakable. I was able to figure out the 'twist' in The Sixth Sense just by watching the trailers.
Which spoiled the whole film for me, in a way. Still, I enjoyed it because Night's screenplay was so refreshingly uncliche, you never knew what was going to appear onscreen next.
There is a big twist in Unbreakable too. But this one's really unbreakable. I mean, you may suspect it, sort of, about a third of the way through the film, when you see the Samuel L Jackson's comicbook shop and Night deftly draws the symbolic parallel between comicbook heroes and real-life characters.
But it is so subtly and carefully planted that you have to watch the film a second time to really notice it; the first time you're just engrossed in figuring out what's going to happen next, and so on.
The comicbook parallel is the crucial one. And it is the closest I can come to telling you what to expect without spoiling the end for you.
When the climactic action sequence explodes in your face, you are going to need a sixth sense to deal with the shock.
All credit to Night. He does such a brilliant job of this climax that you wish he had directed X-Men too!
But that's the end. And that wallop hits you after a long slow train ride of a film that doesn't have all the gory shocks and thrills of Sixth Sense to keep you going. Which may make some viewers fidget and go out for the popcorn.
Take my advice: Adjust your biorhythm to match the pace of the film. It's well worth it.
Because once the story delivers its final shock and blows your mind, it ends faster than you can snap your fingers. And if you have been sneaking out for popcorn, you'll be left dazed and wondering what happened.
But there is a list of 'What they did next' notes about the major characters to help you along. And if you're really a Night fan, you'll be smart enough to buy tickets for two shows.
Seeing it the first time may make you wonder whether this slow, beautifully shot and acted realistic-fantasy-thriller is worth the wait. But the second time makes you discover a whole new world of meaning and symbolism that's majorly paisa vasool.
Getting more specific, Bruce Willis is brilliantly low-key, almost to the point of appearing dumb and dumber.
Samuel L Jackson, coming off his hopped up Shaft performance, turns in a completely different tour de force here. There is a very literal play on the 'black' and 'white' characters here that's also a major part of the film's symbolism -- something that only a coloured/Asian director would have the guts to attempt, and Night pulls it off successfully.
Robin Wright Penn (wife of actor Sean Penn), turns in a harried performance, adding depth and dimension to the Willis character, especially in light of the shocking revelation at the end.
The other performances are equally competent, especially the boy whom we first saw in Gladiator, which makes you note that Night has a special talent for using children in his films.
Night's impressive super realism detail, achieved through superbly controlled sound engineering, cinematography, lighting and editing, only adds to the disbelief you feel when you discover that everything you accepted as real is in fact unreal.
He's the real 'unbreakable' hero of this film and Hollywood today: A hugely successful commercial writer-director who still manages to infuse a 'sixth sense' of intelligence into his work.
Which other director would dare to pace a film this slow, yet attempt a comicbook storyline so realistically?
Lastly, despite all the inevitable comparisons to Sixth Sense, don't expect a repeat.
Unbreakable is in a class of its own. You'll either love it or hate, it's that good a film. But you damn well won't forget it.
That's something you can't say about many Hollywood movies these days.
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