Writer/Director M. Night Shyamalan had the great burden of having his 2nd major studio release live up to the masterpiece that came before it, "THE SIXTH SENSE." It was a big hurtle to overcome, and expectations were so high, that "UNBREAKABLE" really was received harshly by many reviewers, including this one! Still, time has actually served in this film's interest. Getting enough distance away from the film's original release, it's easier to look at it anew, and while it's still painfully flawed at times, and never reaches the brilliance of "THE SIXTH SENSE," it's really worthwhile in many ways. While Shyamalan's latter films suffered greatly by the director struggling to "surprise" the viewer with twists that were less inspired than just plain silly, the twist in "UNBREAKABLE" actually allows the viewer to revisit the film, and peel away different layers, culminating again, and again, with a very disturbing premise, setting it above and beyond where it at first seems to be taking the audience.
Bruce Willis stars as an arena security guard named David Dunn. Near the film's beginning, David is the only survivor of a horrific train crash, and he and the audience begin to realize that he may very well have superhuman abilities. Unfortunately, the film moves a bit too slow, as the audience is well aware of this fact, while David works painstakingly slow in uncovering this fact for himself. His character is contrasted with Elijah(Samuel L. Jackson), whom the audience is introduced to early on, in heartbreaking imagery, as an infant suffering from a brittle bone disease, causing his bones to be so fragile, as to break with even the slightest of irritation. Aha, an extremely weak human and a superhuman! Where is the film going? Well, for the most part, nowhere, and painfully slow. Whereas the deliberate, yet relaxed pacing of "SIXTH SENSE" worked perfectly for that film, "UNBREAKABLE" calls for a steadier pace than it's given here. So, what could've been breathtaking and exhilarating, ends up being sort of ho-hum. Again, there are some wonderful moments. Willis is still really good here, and confident without looking cocky, giving another fine performance. The supporting cast is great too. Unfortunately, for everything that works, much doesn't. A scene taking place at a railroad station, in which David's character begins to use his senses to read passerby's secrets, is less innovative than contrived. A secret scenario wherein he's needed to come to the rescue of a family is less shocking than just plain weird and unoriginal.
However, upon the 2nd viewing of the film, the final moments wherein David and Elijah come to unsettling understandings of one another, manages to, for a brief moment, raise the film to the level of expertise that one appreciates Shyamalan best for. We can only hope he finds that magic again and somehow manages to make it last for an entire film, again.
BUENA VISTA has provided the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio for this 1080p blu-ray release, with AVC MPEG-4 encoding. While intentionally dark in mood and atmosphere, it's not a bright image. Still, blacks are inky, and colors are much deeper and life-like than on the previous dvd. The level of detail is often remarkable, especially in comparison to dvd. However, as good as this high definition image is, it seldom offers that "jump off the screen" imagery found on many superior BUENA VISTA BLU-RAY releases.
BUENA VISTA has traded the impressive DTS mix found on the dvd for a much more impressive PCM 5.1 mix. The environment comes to life with this mix, in a way completely overlooked on the dvd format. Shyamalan does some impressive things with silent moments, and as film lovers realize, not all "silent" moments sound alike. See the opening sequence to "CONTACT" for a fine example, in comparison to other films. The low bass resonating just right beneath some important scenes, creates great tension and dramatic payoff. Surrounds and discrete effects are well handled throughout, without ever feeling manufactured. Dialogue is almost perfectly balanced, however, there are a few instances wherein this reviewer had to utilize subtitles to make out a few lines, that were just too low.
BUENA VISTA has provided the same extras found on the dvd, all in standard resolution. A trailer for "National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets" is included in full high definition.