Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan’s followup to the enormously successful The Sixth Sense, received mixed reactions upon its release. The Sixth Sense was universally accepted as a cinematic masterpiece, revered by both critics and audiences alike. In many ways, Unbreakable is a far superior film. In The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan wove a narrative using the traditional conventions of a horror film. Unbreakable marks his foray into an entirely different genre: the superhero film. In the film, Shyamalan gives his own unique spin to the traditional conventions of comic book narratives. David Dunne, the film’s protagonist, is the archetypal superhero. Even his name relies on a convention often used in comic books. Superheroes often have alliterative names: Clark Kent (Superman), Bruce Banner (The Hulk), Pete Parker (Spiderman), Reed Richards (Mr Fantastic), Sue Storm (The Invisible Woman), Scott Summer (Cyclops), Warren Worthington (Archangel) and Wade Wilson (Deadpool). When viewed critically, the film has all the hallmarks of a comic book — a superhero replete with superpowers and costume and a diabolical arch-nemesis. The narrative itself is an origins story. As Shyamalan notes: “It started out a very traditional movie where the first act was him realising his powers, the second act was him fighting evil and the third act was fighting the ultimate villain. It just didn’t respond to me. Those second and third acts, I didn’t connect with. I didn’t connect with that person. I connected a lot with somebody realising something extraordinary about themselves.” The film focuses on David Dunne discovering his powers. The entire narrative is derived from an easily recognisable comic book convention. In the first few panels of a comic, the origins of a particular superhero will often be explained. If not at the beginning, the origins of these heroes and villains will eventually be revealed. Take the following passage, which appeared in Detective Comics 33, November, 1939, as an example: “As a boy, Bruce Wayne witnessed his parents’ gruesome murder by an unknown gunman and vowed revenge against all who broke the law. As a young adult, he worked to fulfil this vow by traveling the world to learn from masters of various defence disciplines. Eventually he became an exceptional escape artist, master of martial arts, acrobatics, science, technology, boxing, disguises, criminology and detective skills. Having perfected his skills, Bruce Wayne is prepared to embark on his mission. But one thing eludes him — the ability to strike fear in the hearts of the criminals he will confront while protecting his true identity. One night, in his father’s study, Bruce Wayne relives the horror of his parents’ death. Suddenly, in a terrifying flash of blackness, the window is shattered by the striking image of a black bat. In that moment, Bruce Wayne’s destiny is determined. He would become the night… he would become the Batman. Bound by his personal code of justice, Batman resolves to never kill an enemy. Instead, he relies on his physical prowess and mental superiority to bring his enemies to justice.” In Unbreakable, Shyamalan explores the origin of David Dunne and his arch-nemesis Mr Glass. According to Shyamalan: “This is normally the first act of a movie, this whole movie. I’m going to make an entire movie about the first act, an entire movie about a guy realising he’s a superhero.”
Although it draws on the conventions of superhero stories, car chases, explosions and special effects are conspicuously absent from the narrative. Shyamalan deliberately grounds the film in reality.
The film begins with the following prologue:
There are 35 pages and 124 illustrations in the average comic book.
A single issue ranges in price from $1,00 to over $140,000.
172,000 comics are sold in the US every day.
Over 62,780,000 each year.
The average comic collector owns 3,312 comics and will spend
approximately 1 year of his or her life reading them.
While these statistics help to establish genre, the audience quickly becomes immersed in the world of the film and soon forgets any reference to comic books and super heroes. Thus, Shyamalan positions the audience to accept his unconventional spin on a highly recognisable genre. The film opens with the sound of a crying baby. After several seconds, Shyamalan fades in to reveal the interior of a department store change room. The words”Philadelphia Department Store, 1961″ appear on screen. Poor lighting and handheld camera movement firmly ground the film in reality. As the film’s sound designer Richard King notes: “Night wanted us to create a very literal world which was instantly recognisable, as if this incredible story could be happening right down the street.” Through the door, the audience sees a woman and man approach the room, reflected by the department store mirrors. Reflections are used frequently throughout the film. Superhero narratives traditionally have a strong sense of duality. Good versus evil is a recurrent theme in such narratives. Shyamalan uses reflections throughout the film to visually reinforce this idea. The camera tilts down to reveal a ‘striking African-American woman in her twenties’ who holds the crying baby in her arms. As the camera tilts down, the audience realises that they’ve been watching a reflection within a reflection. Elijah’s mother is dressed in purple. Shyamalan uses colour in a very deliberate manner throughout the film: “There was a big design premise which was that the David Dunne world was a warm world and the Elijah world was a cold, steely world.” Throughout the film, Shyamalan uses distinctly different colours to portray the worlds of David Dunne and Elijah Price. Elijah’s world is cold, sterile and purple whereas David’s world is filled with green tones. In addition to reinforcing the binary opposition of these characters, this use of colour is also a subtle nod to the conventions of comic books which often use bold, striking colours to distinguish between heroes and villains. As Doctor Mathison examines the baby, the camera moves between the woman and the reflection of the doctor. As he realises there’s something wrong with the child, camera movement becomes more frenetic moving between the doctors and the sales assistants, Doctor Mathison says: “Please inform the ambulance we have a situation…I’ve never seen this… It appears that your baby has sustained some fractures while in your uterus. His arms and his legs are broken.” Elijah’s mother begins to sob, a close-up emphasizing her emotional pain.
Fade to black.
After the initial credits, Shyamalan fades in to reveal David Dunne (Bruce Willis) sitting with his temple resting against the window of a passenger train. He is dressed in a green shirt and jacket. He turns slightly, observing the movement outside. As he sits up, the camera tracks his movement: “He feels a stare. He looks up to find a girl, six or seven years old, peering at him from over the seat in front of him. She just gazes at him blankly. He gives her a small forced smile. She doesn’t react. David returns his head to the window.” According to film theorist Bob Foss, the most convincing actors are those who have “mastered the language of the body, a subtle combination of outward appearance and underacting. What we should aim for is economy of expression, the greatest possible effect with the least possible effort. A glance can express much more than a violent gesture.” Willis’ involvement in The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable changed perception regarding his ability as an actor. This scene epitomises the skill with which he subtly conveys the loneliness and isolation of this character. David again rests his head against the window, rubbing his eyes. Off screen, we hear a woman’s voice: “Are you alone?” David nods and she sits beside him. Shyamalan’s emphasis on character development is evident from the opening scene. This line actually conveys a great deal of meaning. David is alone. Estranged from his family and dissatisfied with his place in the world. The camera pans left to reveal a beautiful woman. As she stows her bags in the overhead compartment, the camera lingers on her toned, tattooed stomach before panning back to David who surreptitiously removes his wedding ring. When she sits down, he offers he a selection of magazines. She chooses a sporting magazine and they strike up a conversation. \
DAVID: You like sports?
WOMAN: It’s my field. I represent athletes. I’m an agent.
DAVID: Are you looking for any male synchronised swimmers? I’m thinking about getting into that.
WOMAN: Is that right?
DAVID: I’m afraid of water. Think that’s a problem? You represent someone in Philadelphia?
WOMAN: I’m meeting a player from Temple University. He’s a cornerback. This kid is six foot one, two hundred and ten pounds. He runs the forty in four point three seconds. He’s going to be a God. You like football?
DAVID: Not really. I’m David Dunne.
KELLY: Nice to meet you.
DAVID: Nice to meet you. How long are you going to be in Philadelphia?
KELLY: I’m married.
DAVID: (fake excitement) Great.
KELLY: I’m sorry.
DAVID: (fake confusion) What are you talking about? I think you misunderstood when I was, uh, saying…
KELLY: I’m think I’m going to find another seat.
One of the most interesting aspects of Unbreakable is the way Shyamalan plays on the conventions of this genre. The opening sequence is very different to other superhero films. Instead of using an action sequence to engage the audience, Shyamalan chooses to focus on character development. In terms of narrative, the film primarily focuses on David Dunne’s development as a character. The opening is deliberately subdued to create a sense of normalcy. As Shyamalan notes: “The number one benefit of pacing it like that you feel part of that world. It helps me achieve a symbiotic relationship between the main character and the audience.” To maintain audience engagement later in the film, Shyamalan builds a strong bond between David Dunne and the audience. This is particularly evident in the opening sequence. Both Willis’ acting and several point-of-view shots build audience identification with this character. Perhaps the most poignant part is after the conversation with Kelly ends. As Shyamalan notes in the screenplay: “Kelly gets up. She balances herself against a headrest as the train rumbles. She starts to the back of the car. David sits alone. He looks like he’s drowning, but there’s no water. He feels a stare. He glances up. The little girl spies on him from between the seats. David leans towards the window to avoid eye contact. His hand reaches into his coat and slides out his wedding band. He puts it back on. His temple touches the glass. The vibration of the train begins to lull his eyes closed…” The stark contrast between the opening sequence of Unbreakable and films of a similar genre is the characteristic subtlety with which Shyamalan portrays the train accident. In a conventional superhero story, this sequence would have called for fast editing and spectacular computer generated effects. Shyamalan’s approach is far more subtle. As David rests his temple against the window, the camera slowly dollies in to emphasise his growing concern. The shaking of the train becomes louder and the horn sounds repeatedly. David looks out the window. Shyamalan consciously uses a point-of-view shot of the landscape rushing past to immerse the audience in the narrative. Shyamalan cuts to a profile of David, the camera rapidly dollies out and pans around the cabin to convey the growing concern of other passengers. He cuts back to a shot of David between the seats, the camera quickly dollies in to highlight his alarm, cuts to a point-of-view shot between the seats as the driver reaches for the brake. David’s head turns in slow motion, green landscape rushing past the window. Although subtle, Shyamalan’s use of sound, camera movement, acting and point-of-view shots in this scene contribute to audience engagement.
The next scene opens with a long shot of a residential street in Philadelphia, a car drives into the distance and people go about their daily business. The film cuts to a living room of one of the houses. The room is decorates in various shades of green, including pale green wallpaper and a green sofa. “A boy, age ten, sits on his head on the family couch and watches television upside down. His floppy brown hair spreads out in a circle in front of his red face. He changes channels with a remote control. He moves past the upside down cartoons and the upside down talk shows. He stops on an upside down picture of a crashed train. Beat. His knees come forward as he flips over. He tumbles slowly off the couch and onto the carpet. JOSEPH DUNNE gazes at the television screen… A LIVE AERIAL VIEW OF A TRAIN WRECK SMOULDERING BELOW IS SEEN. Two trains are tangled like snakes.” Joseph, who happens to be wearing a green shirt, rushes down the hallway and reads an orange post-it note affixed to the kitchen wall which reads:
In the next scene, David Dunne finds himself laying on a hospital trolly. Diegetic sound — including hushed voices uttering medical phrases, the incessant beep of a cardiac monitor and the soft clink of medical instruments – help to establish the setting. In the foreground of this shot, a doctor works feverishly on another patient while David looks around, obviously bewildered. The camera slowly dollies in as he is approached by a man wearing surgical scrubs.
DOCTOR: You’re in the emergency room in the Philadelphia City Hospital. You were in a serious accident. Look at me. How are you feeling?
DOCTOR: Good. I’m going to ask you some questions. Have you ever had any hear or asthma problems in the past?
DOCTOR: Kidney or renal problems?
DOCTOR: Any allergies?
DOCTOR: Where were you sitting on the train?
The doctor explains that, apart from the man being operated on in the foreground of the shot, David is the only survivor of the train crash. As his exposition continues, the camera dissolves to the interior of the hospital where David, as if in a daze, wanders through the waiting room. The camera lingers on his face for a moment, then pans around as the families of other accident victims wait for news of their loved ones: “And to answer your question, there are two reasons why I’m looking at you like this. One, because it seems, in a few minutes, you will officially be the only survivor of this train wreck. And two, because you didn’t break one bone, you don’t have a scratch on you…” Jeremy, who is also waiting in the foyer, runs to his father and embraces him. Handheld camera movement and the harsh, fluorescent light of the hospital contribute to the realism of this scene and heighten audience engagement with the narrative. Acting also contributes to character development. In the previous scene, David concealed his wedding ring in order to flirt with another passenger. Here, he stares at his wife distantly before embracing her. They hold hands for a moment as they leave the hospital. The nature of their relationship is made explicitly clear through their performances in this scene. To heighten the drama of this scene, dialogue has been omitted from the soundtrack and replaced with a low rumble and a high pitched scream reminiscent of the sound preceding the train crash. As they leave the hospital, David and his family are surrounded by reporters and the staccato sound of cameras.
When David returns home, he eats a solitary meal in the darkened kitchen. The mise en scène of the kitchen reflects the colours associated with this character throughout the film. The kitchen is decorated in various shades of green. As he retires for the evening, he encounters his wife who is quietly putting ironed clothes into her drawers. Obviously shaken by his experience on the train wreck, David explains that he didn’t receive the position that he was applying but he still intends to relocate to New York. This scene, more than any other, helps to illustrate that Unbreakable focuses on “real human beings who experience real emotions, who have real families, who have real problems that we can all kind of recognise.”
Shyamalan dissolves to a handheld shot which tracks David through a crowd of well-dressed people. The camera pauses on sign which reads, “MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR THE FAMILIES OF EASTRAIL TRAIN 177.” As David walks through the crowd, diegetic sound is once again used to establish the setting. In the background, a church bell chimes repeatedly. Inside the church, a priest reads a list of those killed in the train wreck, the camera dollies out to reveal ornate notice boards plastered with photographs of the victims who include a teacher, social worker and leukaemia researcher. Audience sympathy towards David Dunne is high at this point. Like the character himself, the audience is wondering why his seemingly hollow and worthless life was spared. As he leaves the church, the audience is given an example of Shyamalan’s aesthetically pleasing visual composition. When David approaches his car he is framed in the driver’s side window, a frame within a frame. Although it is aesthetically pleasing, it is also an elegant way to convey the narrative. With a simple pan, Shyamalan reveals that an envelope has been slipped under the windshield wiper of David’s car. David removes the letter. An over-the-shoulder shot reveals that the note asks a simple question: How many days of your life have you been sick? As he looks around the deserted car park, the camera rises high above the car to reinforce the fact that he’s alone. James’ Newton Howard’s simple yet heroic score kicks in towards the end of this scene. Although it features at other points in the film, this theme is primarily associated with David Dunne and his acts of heroism.
When he returns to work, David opens his locker and looks at himself in the mirror before removing his uniform. Mirrors are used repeatedly throughout the film to underscore the binary opposition of characters usually associated with this genre. Symbolically, they also function on a far more sophisticated level. Unbreakable is not a traditional superhero story. As Shyamalan notes: “There’s no black and white characters in the movie, in that the good person, the hero, has flaws and the villain is very endearing and has wonderful qualities about him.” In this sense, the mirrors not only come to symbolise themes of good versus evil in the film, but also the duality inherent in these characters. David’s uniform, which is emblazoned with the word ‘SECURITY,’ and the lockers themselves are green, reiterating the visual motif which was established earlier in the film. David visits the personnel officer where a crotchety old secretary promises to check how many sick days he has taken since working at the stadium. As Shyamalan once commented, when you reach the end of Unbreakable you realise that what you’ve seen is “very similar to a comic book.” Upon a second film, you begin to notice the references to comic books. David Dunne is the archetypal comic book hero. Shyamalan alludes to this when David is shown standing beneath an arch at the stadium watching the players practice on a rain drenched field. David is backlit, the silhouette of his poncho creating a strikingly iconic image reminiscent of other super heroes such as Batman. Such reference elude most viewers during an initial screening of the film but are quite obvious when it is viewed again. Upon reading the screenplay, Shyamalan’s intentions in this particular shot are obvious: “David stands at the entrance to a tunnel that empties out onto the field. He stands in an imposing dark green rain poncho and hood. The poncho almost touches the ground. The word ‘security’ on the back has almost faded away. We can barely see David’s face under the hood.” The film cuts to a close-up of David watching the footballers. Although his reasons for disliking football are unclear, the sport comes to represent his failed dreams and ambitions. When he returns to the locker room, his boss approaches him: “You’re getting a forty dollar a week raise…that’s it. I checked. You were right. You’ve never taken a sick day. Five years, no sick days. I get it. You want a raise. Smart way to make your point.” Later that night, David wakes his wife who can’t remember the last time he was sick. As this scene progresses, the camera dollies in to emphasise David’s concern and bewilderment. As the conversation ends the film fades to black.
The film fades in to reveal a thirteen year old Elijah Price sitting in front of a television set. His arm is in a sling and he wears a purple turtleneck sweater. The year and location appear on the screen: West Philadelphia, 1974. Again, visual composition is used to reiterate themes of duality in the film. Elijah, who is essentially the mirror image of David Dunne, is shown in the reflection of the television set. His mother approaches him from behind.
ELIJAH’S MOTHER: No more sitting in this room. I’ve let it go on long enough.
ELIJAH: I’m not going out anymore. I’m not getting hurt again. This was the last time. I told you.
ELIJAH’S MOTHER: You can’t do anything about that. You might fall between this chair and that television. If that’s what God has planned for you, that’s what’s going to happen. You can’t hide from it sitting in a room.
ELIJAH: They call me Mr. Glass at school. Cause I break like glass.
ELIJAH’S MOTHER: You make this decision now to be afraid…And you will never turn back your whole life. You will always be afraid…I got a present for you.
ELIJAH’S MOTHER: Forget why. Do you want it or not? (Elijah nods) Well, go get it then.
ELIJAH: Where is it?
ELIJAH’S MOTHER: On a bench, across the street.
Elijah walks across the street to get the present which is wrapped with purple tissue paper inside a purple box. He unwraps it to reveal a limited edition comic book, Active Comics “The Battle with Jaguaro”. The cover features a hero named Slayer who is clad in green and yellow (colours strikingly similar to those of David Dunne’s poncho) against a city scape rendered with purple ink. The hero is gallantly fending off a slavering beast called Jaguaro. Interestingly, the words ‘LIMITED EDITION’ are printed across the bottom of the cover. This, of course, will later become the name of Elijah’s gallery. The impact that comic books had on Elijah’s life is underscored by his mother who says, “I bought a whole bunch. There’ll be one of these waiting for you, every time you want to come out here. They say this one has a surprise ending.” In both Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan incorporates subtle references to the ending of these films throughout the narrative. In The Sixth Sense, for example, when Doctor Malcolm Crowe is telling Cole Seer a bedtime story, the child remarks, “You haven’t told bedtime stories before? You have to add some twists and stuff.” This is an obvious reference to the twist which occurs at the end of the narrative. Unbreakable, too, has a startling revelation at the end. This line of dialogue is an obvious reference to the ‘surprise ending’ that awaits the audience. The inverted imagery which pervades the film is also evident in this scene. As Elijah removes the comic book from its packaging, the comic book is shown upside down using an overhead shot. The camera follows the movement of the comic book as he turns it around to read it. The film dissolves to a detailed, pencil rendering of the same cover, displayed on the wall of Elijah’s art gallery. Elijah and one of his customers are reflected in the glass of the delicate frame. “This is from Fritz Champion’s own library,” Elijah says. “This is before the first issue of the comic book hit the stands in 1968. It’s a classic depiction of good versus evil. Notice the square jaw of Slayer – common in most comic book heroes. And the slightly disproportionate size of Jaguaro’s head to his body. This again is common, but only in villains… The thing to notice about this piece… The thing that makes it very, very special…is its realistic depiction of its figures. When the characters eventually made it into the magazine they were exaggerated… as always happens. This is vintage.” Elijah’s dialogue is significant for a number of reasons. First, like the preceding scene, it is rather self-reflexive, Shyamalan is commenting upon the narrative of Unbreakable itself which can accurately be described as a ‘realistic depiction” of comic book figures. It’s also interesting that Elijah mentions the ‘slightly disproportionate size of Jaguaro’s head to his body’. Throughout the film, Elijah’s haircut becomes more and more exaggerated and his head quite literally appears slightly disproportionate to his body. When Elijah discovers that his customer is purchasing the expensive piece of artwork for his four-year-old son, he becomes angry and unleashes a bitter diatribe: “Do you see any Telletubbies around here?… Do you see a slender plastic tag clipped to my shirt with my name printed on it?… Do you see a little Asian child with a blank expression sitting outside in a mechanical helicopter that shakes when you put a quarter in it?… No?…Well that’s what you see at a toy store? Any you must think you’re in a toy store, because you’re in here shopping for an infant named Jeb. One of us has made a gross error and wasted the other person’s valuable time. This is an art gallery, my friend. And this is a piece of art.” This scene is significant precisely because it is the first time the audience has been introduced to the adult Elijah. Samuel L. Jackson’s performance contributes significantly to character development, establishing Elijah as cold and impertinent. His exaggerated haircut and purple garb, when considered in the context of the entire narrative, is reminiscent of several comic book villains. The mise-en-scene reflects Shyamalan’s intention that Elijah’s world is ‘cold and steely’. After the customer leaves, David and Joseph enter the store and approach Elijah concerning the cryptic message. This scene is largely expository: Elijah explains his disease and why he is interested in David. “I’ve studied the form of comics intimately. I’ve spent a third of my life in a hospital bed with nothing else to do but read. I believe that comics are our last link to an ancient way of passing on history. The Egyptians drew on walls. Countries all over the world still pass on knowledge through pictorial forms. I believe comics are a form of history that someone, somewhere felt or experienced. Then of course that core got chewed up in the commercial machine, got jazzed up, made titillating — cartooned for the sale rack.” Elijah has genetic disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta which means that his body doesn’t produce enough of a particular protein, making his bones brittle. During his lifetime he has sustained fifty-four breaks. Elijah believes that if there is someone like him in the world, then there must be somebody at the other end of the spectrum who cannot be hurt, a person “put here to protect the rest of us”. This scene is crucial in setting up the twist at the end of the narrative. During the exposition, Elijah notes: ” This city has had its share of disasters. I watched the aftermath of that plane crash, I watched the carnage of the hotel fire, I watched the news, waiting to hear a very specific combination of words but they never came. Then one day I saw a news story about a train accident and I heard them. There is a sole survivor and he is miraculously unharmed.” This exposition reinforces the themes of duality that Shyamalan has established throughout the first part of the film through repeated use of reflections. The colours used to represent each character also reinforce this opposition. David, who claims he was injured during a car accident which prevented him from playing football, is skeptical about Elijah’s claims and leaves. Although it is long and primarily dialogue based, this scene is also pivotal in terms of David’s character development. clarifying his reasons for disliking football and clarifying the fact that he is deeply dissatisfied with his life: “This morning was the first morning I can remember, that I didn’t open my eyes and feel sadness…I thought the person that wrote that note had an answer for me.” Before he leaves, he tells Elijah that he works at the university stadium as a security guard.
Late that night, David goes through a folder of newspaper clippings hidden away at the top of his closet. Again, this is an important scene in terms of character establishment and development. As David flips through the articles, which are shown through a sustained point-of-view shot. The audience catches a glimpse of the headlines: WARRIORS RUN TO CHAMPIONSHIPS, WARRIORS ROOKIE WINS 4TH QUARTER VICTORY, WARRIORS TO RUN CHAMPIONSHIPS, When he reaches one particular article, the film cuts to a low-angle shot of David examining the article. Shyamalan cuts to a close-up of the headline, “Local football star injured in near fatal car accident.” The camera pans left to reveal a more recent headline, “Local man only survivor of deadly train crash.” The camera slowly zooms into the picture of David’s wrecked car. He is interrupted by a soft knock at the door. “I just want to ask you something, okay?” Audrey asks. “And you can be totally honest. I’m prepared for any answer. It won’t affect me…Have you been with anyone? I mean, since we started having problems? The answer won’t affect me. My decision is… I’d like to start again. Pretend we’re at the beginning. It’s a big deal you walked away from that train. It’s a second chance. If you want to ask me out sometime, that would be okay.” In his review of Unbreakable, Roger Ebert notes: “In Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock made us think the story was about the Janet Leigh character, and then killed her off a third of the way into the film. No one gets killed early in “Unbreakable,” but Shyamalan is skilled at misdirection: He involves us in the private life of the comic book dealer, in the job and marriage problems of the security guard, in stories of wives and mothers. The true subject of the film is well-guarded, although always in plain view, and until the end, we don’t know what to hope for or fear.” This is certainly the case at this point in the narrative, the audience has become involved in the main protagonists personal problems. In recent years, there has been a proliferation of morally ambiguous superheroes. In many ways, David Dunne is the antithesis of these figures. He is a return to the virtuous and noble superheroes of yesteryear. Although he has been experiencing marriage problems, David has remained loyal to his wife. Only later in the narrative does the audience realize how much he sacrificed for his marriage. In this scene, Robin Wright Penn’s performance is particularly poignant and contributes significantly to audience engagement. Minimal editing also adds to the intensity of this scene.
The next scene begins with an extreme long shot of the university stadium. The sharp, intrusive sound of a walkie talkie is heard over the muted roar of the crowd as the film cuts to David Dunn walking through the crowded stadium.: “It’s Jenkins, we got a guy at gate 17C with a bogus ticket. Says he knows you. He won’t tell me his name.” Shyamalan is a director who is unafraid to linger on a long shot. When David confronts Elijah, they’re shown in the distance through the bars of a green fence. In the film, Shyamalan frequently uses shots like this which are reminiscent of comic book panels. It is evident that Elijah still clings to his theory regarding David: “Why is it, do you think, that of all the professions in the world, you chose protection?…You could have been a tax accountant, you could have owned your own gym, you could have opened a chain of restaurants, you could have done one of ten thousand things… but in the end, you chose to protect people. You made that decision… and I find that very, very interesting. Now all I need is your credit card number…that last part was a joke.” In this scene, Shyamalan hints at David’s latent abilities. While walking through the crowd and explaining his occupation to Elijah, the sound of the crowd becomes muted and there is a soft ringing sound. David turns and the camera dollies in on his concerned expression. He has evidently sensed something. “The tall guy in the camouflage jacket. Sometimes people carry weapons in here. Then they drink too much. Team’s not doing good, bad things can happen… We do pat downs of the crowd to discourage people from carrying. If he’s carrying, he’ll step out of line.” The man begins to look nervous, coughs, steps between the barriers and leaves. As previously noted, the visual composition throughout the film symbolically represents themes of good versus evil. There is a high degree of symmetry in particular shots. In the following scene, David and Elijah discuss how he knew the man in camouflage was carrying a weapon. As their conversation progresses, the camera slowly dollies out. There is a high degree of symmetry in this shot. Shyamalan makes the following observations about his characters: “Good cannot exist without evil. Evil cannot exist without good. Basically, Elijah’s character needed to find the hero so he could take his mantle and be the villain. ” This is certainly reflected in the composition of this shot, David and Elijah are pictured on opposite sides of the frame. A clear opposition is established between good and evil. During this scene, David admits that he has visions. “I got this picture of a silver handled fun tucked in his pants,” he says. Elijah believes this form of intuition, which allows David to sense what people have done is a special power. “Characters in comics are often attributed special powers. Invisibility, X-ray vision, things of that sort,” he notes. David remains skeptical.
Elijah returns to his car. A radio announcer discusses the investigation into the train wreck. In the screenplay, Shyamalan is quite explicit about the nature of Elijah’s car: “We are inside a customized car. The dashboard is covered in some sort of thin foam padding. The steering wheel and gear shift have the same padding. Every corner and hard surface has been safe guarded.” In the film, the audience is only given a brief glimpse of the car’s black interior. Elijah’s gloves also hint at his true nature: in this genre, black leather gloves are usually associated with villains. Elijah catches a glimpse of the man in the green camouflage jacket and decides to pursue him. During this scene, the audience is strongly positioned to accept Elijah’s point-of-view. As he pursues the man, the camera alternates between a mid-shot of Elijah and a handheld point-of-view shot of the man walking into the distance. The man seems to “move farther away with every step.” A particularly suspenseful theme from James Newton Howard’s score kicks in and Elijah’s every breath is emphasized as he pursues the man. As he reaches the entrance to the subway, the score rises dramatically and the camera dollies out to reveal the height of the steps. Obviously, Elijah will incapable of descending the stairs quickly. Shyamalan cuts to another point-of-view shot of the man receding into the depths of the subway. “I just want to ask you something,” Elijah yells. Elijah starts walking quickly down the stairs. The camera cuts to a close-up of his feet, then to his hand grasping the rail, to another point-of-view shot emphasizing how steep the steps are, a close-up of ELijah’s face, back to his feet, which are starting to falter. Shyamalan cuts quickly to his hand, which loses its grip, then back to his feet as he trips over. Richard King’s sound editing is particularly impressive during this scene. As Elijah tumbles down the steps, Shyamalan cuts between slow motion point-of-view shots and close-ups of Elijah’s body hitting the concrete. During the point of view shots, the audience hears nothing but the sound of Elijah’s glass cane shattering. When the film cuts back to his body hitting the concrete, the sound of bones breaking and his agonizing screams are emphasized. The result is an elegant exercise in audience engagement. When Elijah hits the bottom, he sees the man in the camouflage jacket jumping the turnstile and catches a glimpse of a silver handled pistol tucked into his belt.
Later that day, David returns home on the bus. Joseph is playing football in the park with other children and a muscular man. Running to his father, he says: “You want yo play the last downs? We got a big guy like you. You can play on opposite sides. He’s Potter’s cousin. He’s starting cornerback for Temple University. He going pro in the draft. They say he can run the forty in four point three seconds. You can beat him.” All of M. Might Shyamalan’s films have an emphasis on character development. The characters in each of his films grow significantly throughout the course of the narrative. The resolution of the narrative is always closely related to the development of his characters. In Unbreakable, David Dunne is searching for something to fill the sense of emptiness in his life. This journey brings him closer to his son and helps him resolve the problems with his wife. This scene demonstrates the distance between David and Joseph. Obviously proud of his father, Joseph throws an arm around his back as David returns home. When they return home, David begins to discover his latent abilities. While working out in the basement with his son, they keep adding weights to the barbell. Much to his incredulity, David discovers that he can lift three hundred and fifty pounds. As David begins to discover his immense strength, Elijah receives the bad news about his injuries. “…fracture of the fifth metacarple of the right hand as well as multiple fractures of the sixth, seventh, and eighth ribs. The worst of the injury, however, was sustained to the left leg in the form of a spiral fracture. There were fourteen breaks. It simply shattered.” Elijah muses over the fact that children call him ‘Mr Glass’. The camera dollies into Elijah’s eye as the doctor continues describing the extent of his fractures and dissolves to a logo stenciled on glass which reads, ‘Care One Physical Therapy Centre’. Audrey is working at a desk, leafing through files when one of her coworkers inform her that her 10 o’clock appointment has arrived. Her appointment is with Elijah. As she’s discussing his recovery, Elijah begins probing her for information.
AUDREY: We’re going to prevent any substantial atrophy of your good leg with this. And it works the quadriceps.
ELIJAH: How long have you been married?
AUDREY: Twelve years.
ELIJAH: How’d you get together? I’m a little nervous being here. I ask too many questions when I’m nervous.
AUDREY: A car accident.
ELIJAH: Now you’re going to have to tell me more.
AUDREY: My husband was a star athlete in college and we were in an accident together. Our car flipped on an icy road. We were both injured. He couldn’t play football anymore. If that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have been together.
ELIJAH: How so?
AUDREY: I think we should talk about your rehab…
ELIJAH: You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. So…tell me more about the quad machine.
AUDREY: It prevents atrophy by…I couldn’t spend my life with someone who plays football. It’s pretty much that simple. I don’t hate the game. I admire the amount of skill it involved and, like everyone else, I was in awe of how he could play it, but football in many ways is the opposite of what I do. You’re rewarded the more you punish your opponent. It’s too much about violence and I don’t want violence in my life. It’s not a thing many people can understand but, anyway, fate stepped in with that car accident and took football out of the equation.
ELIJAH: And everyone lived happily ever after.
AUDREY: Sort of.
ELIJAH: What part of David’s body was injured?
AUDREY: Who said my husband’s name is David?
This scene is significant in terms of character development, helping to explain the relationship between David and his wife. It illustrates why David is dissatisfied with his life and, in many ways, has come to resent his wife for his failed dreams.
Meanwhile, at the stadium, David is becoming more aware of his latent powers. He leans against a wall, watching spectators move through a crowded stadium tunnel. The camera follows as he walks into the crowd. People start brushing against him. James Newton Howard’s evocative and heroic score rises. A woman wearing a bright pink jacket, leading miserable looking child along by the hand, brushes against David. The screen flashes momentarily and he hears the child scream. In the original screenplay, Shyamalan was far more explicit in his treatment of this scene: “Flash cut: An image of the stocky woman in a bathrobe standing in a kitchen. She’s holding the shoulder of a five year old boy standing next to her. He’s crying uncontrollably. They both are looking down at the kitchen table where three things are laid out…a helt, a hanger, and an extension cord.” Instead, Shyamalan chooses to convey the child abuse using a far more subtle combination of sound, editing and acting.
We return to the rehabilitation centre.
ELIJAH: A Seven-three-seven crashes on take off. One hundred and seventy-two die. No survivors… A hotel fire downtown. Two hundred and eleven die. No survivors…An Eastrail train derails seven and half miles outside of the city. One hundred and thirty one die. One survivor. He is unharmed. I’ve spoken with your husband about his survival. I suggested a rather unbelievable possibility. Since then, I’ve come to believe, that possibility, however unbelievable, is more of a probability.
Audrey: And what was it you suggested?
ELIJAH: These are mediocre time Mrs. Dunne. People are starting to lose hope. It’s hard for many to believe there are extraordinary things inside themselves as well as others… I hope you can keep an open mind?
Shyamalan cuts back to the stadium where David experiences another preternatural flash of intuition. A man in a blue jacket walks past him . Shyamalan cuts to a vision of the man in the stadium’s mens’ room. Wearing a red jacket, he finishes washing his hands, walks to the opposite side of the bathroom and removes a bag of cocaine from the trash. Placing it in his pocket, he leaves. As Shyamalan cuts back to David the camera dollies out rapidly to reveal the man queuing to buy food. David approaches. Theorists, critics and fans of cinema have drawn parallels between Shyamalan and Alfred Hitchcock. Like Hitchcock, Shyamalan also appears briefly in each of his films. Here, he makes an appearance as the man in blue. David approaches the man and asks to search him, explaining that they’ve had problems with people dealing drugs at the stadium. The man obliges and David finds nothing. The act he witnessed obviously occurred days or weeks earlier. The man leaves and David’s walkie talkie crackles to life: “There’s a message for you at the office. Your kid was hurt.”
At the school, the nurse explains that Joseph was involved in a fight.
NURSE: It’s more emotional damage. It wasn’t very serious physically. Nothing like when I sent you to the hospital.
DAVID: What was that?
NURSE: My office was on the other side of the building back then. You don’t remember me do you? I had red hair. Well, you were a little younger than Jeremy when it happened. Did you know we changed the rules of conduct around the pool because of you? The kids still talk about it like some ghost story…”Did you know there was a kid that almost drowned in the pool? He lay on the bottom of the pool for five minutes. And when they pulled him out, he was dead.” We let them tell it…It helps keep them safe. Are you still phobic of water?
This is another important scene in terms of character development. Later in the narrative it becomes apparent that David is impervious to water. Most superheroes have a weakness. Superman is weakened by kryptonite; Daredevil is blind; Ironman is on the brink of heart failure. This is yet another example of Shyamalan playing on the convention of comic book superhero stories. As the narrative progresses and the audience becomes aware that David Dunne posses unnatural powers, Shyamalan quite consciously uses more vivid colour to make the film more closely resemble a comic book: “Ultimately, we learn that he’s a superhero. The idea was, as we went through the movie, colour could be added, more primary colours you would have in a comic book.” As David walks through the playground with his son, they walk over a brightly decorated stretch of asphalt. While the visual composition throughout the film is reminiscent of the panels in comic books, Shyamalan waits until David begins to discover his powers before making the colours more analogous to those used in comics. As they walk through the playground, David and Joseph discuss the fight.
JOSEPH: It was Potter and another guy. They were messing with this Chinese girl in the dressing room. You can’t let bad things happen to good people, right? That’s your code, right? That’s the heroes’ code, right? I tried to make them stop. But they kept pushing me down and wouldn’t let me get up. I thought maybe cause you were my dad, I thought I might be like you. I’m not like you.
DAVID: You are like me. We can both get hurt. I’m just an ordinary man.
JOSEPH: No you’re not. Why do you keep saying that?
Later that night, Audrey tells David that she was visited by Elijah. Although the scene begins with a static shot of David washing the dishes, Shyamalan soon cuts to a handheld shot which reveals Joseph sitting at a table with his father’s revolver. Handheld camera movement is significant in terms of audience engagement. Commonly associated with documentaries, it adds significantly to the realise of this scene. The lack of editing in this scene also contributes to a sense of realism. Joseph takes the gun and threatens to shoot his father to prove that he can’t be harmed. During this emotionally intense scene, David convinces his son to put the gun down.
Following the incident with the gun, David confronts Elijah at the gallery. The symmetrical composition of this frame symbolically represents Elijah’s latter assertion that they’re “on the same curve…just at opposite ends.” During this scene, Elijah further explains his theory regarding David’s innate abilities: “Were you really injured in that car accident in college? Because I think you faked it. I think you took the opportunity to end your career – no questions asked. And I think you did it, of all things, for a women…” David explains how he developed pneumonia after almost drowning as a child. “I don’t need to see you anymore, okay? Please stay away from my family.”
Later that night, Elijah sits sullenly in the back of a comic book store. There is an encounter between the clerk and Elijah who refuses to leave the shop. The clerk attempts to wheel him out and then threatens to call the police before Elijah decides to purchase a copy of Sentryman Vs the Coalition of Evil. Although slightly desaturated, the colours in the comic book store are similar to those employed in the school yard. The visual style of the film is becoming more analogous to that of a comic book. As this scene unfolds, Shyamalan cuts back to the Dunne household where Audrey and David are preparing to go out. Joseph is sitting in his room, staring dejectedly at two plastic action figures, poised in his hands as if about to do battle. The figure on the right bears a striking resemblance to Slayer, the character depicted on the cover of the comic book that Elijah received as a child. Although the colour of his costume has changed, he still retains the yellow and green colouring similar to David’s security uniform. Although he assures his parents that he’s fine, Joseph is obviously deeply disappointed that is father is just an ordinary man. Because their son appears upset, Audrey and David only decide to go out for a ‘couple of drinks’.
Later that night, David and Audrey sit at the restaurant and share an intimate conversation. The warm, green tones used throughout this scene are significant.
AUDREY: When was the first time the thought popped into your head we might not make it?
DAVID: That’s not the game.
AUDREY: It’s the first date. There aren’t any rules.
DAVID: Don’t know for sure.
AUDREY: Think carefully?
DAVID: What about the game?
AUDREY: It’s finished. I won. Look, maybe it wasn’t a specific moment, maybe it was-
DAVID: I had a nightmare one night. I had a…I didn’t wake you up so you could tell me it was okay. I think that was the first time. Does that count?
AUDREY: That counts. Do you knowingly keep me and Joseph at a distance?
DAVID: I don’t know. I just don’t feel right, Audrey. Sometimes…just not right.
AUDREY: Do you resent us, David? Resent the life you have. There were a lot of things you could have done after college. These were your choices. You know even if it meant we couldn’t have been together, I would never have wished that injury on you? What you could physically was a gift. I never would have wished it to go away. You know that right?
When they return home, David discovers that he has received the job in New York. There is a message waiting from Elijah on the answering machine: “David. It’s Elijah. It was so obvious. It was this one issue that brought it back for me… Century Comics One-Seventeen. That’s where this group, the Coalition of Evil, tried to ascertain the weakness of every superhero…because they all have one. Just like you. Your bones don’t break. Mine do. That’s clear. Your cells react to bacteria and viruses differently to mine. You don’t get sick. I do. That’s also clear. But for some reason, you and I react the exact same way to water. We swallow it too fast, we choke. It gets on our lungs, we drown. However unreal it may seem, we are connected, you and I, we are on the same curve…just on opposite ends. The point of all this is, we now know something we didn’t…You have a weakness…Water. It’s like krpytonite.”
This is a definitive moment in the narrative. David begins to realise that Elijah is right, there is something unique about him. Later that night, he scales the fence at the Eastrail Trains, breaks into a warehouse and walks among the ruins of the train, a mess of twisted metal and broken glass. David once again wears his poncho, the dark green coat emblazoned with the word SECURITY. The camera lingers on his face, drops of water falling slowly from the hood. Shyamalan flashes back to the car accident during college. A young David wakes up on the ground, his jacket is ripped. He turns to see Audrey trapped in their burning car. The camera work is delibarately shaky to create a sense of realism and contribute to audience engagment. David runs to the car. “Her body is twitching as it sits pinned behind the wheel. David pulls at the handle of the mangled door. It’s wedged tight. It won’t move. The heat from the fire is tremendous. David’s powerful arms keep pulling with all their strength. WE HEAR THE CREAK OF METAL… THE DOOR BENDS UNNATURALLY AND THEN PRACTICALLY RIPS OPEN. David leans into the car and unbuckles Megan.” James Newton Howard’s score contributes significantly to our emotional engagement as David pulls Audrey from the wreckage. Another motorist arrives on the scene and asks if they’re injured. Shyamalan deliberately uses slow motion here to highlight the gravity of David’s decision. This is a pivotal point in his life. In an extremely poignant moment, made more touching by the score, David decides to sacrifice his dreams and ambition for love.
David calls Elijah and admits that he wasn’t injured in the car accident. Elijah’s advice is simple: “Go to where people are. You won’t have to look very long. It’s alright to be afraid David, because this part won’t be a comic book. Real life doesn’t fit into little boxes that were drawn for it.” A this point, Shyamalan consciously refers to the style of this film through Elijah’s dialogue. What we’ve been watching is a real life comic book. The scene that follows is one of the film’s major set pieces. In an early draft of the screenplay, Shyamalan had envisaged a slightly different opening to this scene: He passed the towering black statue standing at the far end of the station. It watches over the whole building. It’s in the form of an angel lifting a soldier to heaven.” It is difficult to ascetain why this shot was dropped but it paints a stark picture of how Shyamalan intends to portray David in this sequence. In many ways, he is on the verge of becoming a guardian angel, silently watching over the people at the train station. In the film, the sequence begins with David standing at the entrance to the cavernous train station. Backlit by harsh spotlights mounted on the ceiling, his poncho creates an imposing silhouette. Shyamalan’s use of location is interesting. The repeated use of trains throughout the film (the train wreck at the beginning, Elijah’s accident at the subway station and the comic store he visits, which is located beneath a train line) cannot be ignored. Trains metaphorically representing the journey of self discovery that David is undertaking. A journey near its end. Standing at the top of the stairs, the camera dollies in, revealing a crowded train station. In the first half of the film, Shyamalan frequently uses high angle shots of David. As he descends the steps, Shyamalan has deliberately used a low angle shot to convey his increasing power. Throughout the film, Shyamalan is very conscious about his use of colour. This sequence features the colours the audience has come to associate with David Dunne. Bright colours are used to make particular characters stand out. As David enters the crowd, a woman in a bright red jacket brushes past him. The screen flashes. For a moment, the footage speeds up. Shyamalan cuts to an overshot of the woman standing at the counter in a jewellery store. She points to the shelf behind the sales assistant. When he turns around, she reaches into the display case, stealing some jewellery. Apart from the red jacket, this scene is almost devoid of colour. Slam cut back to the train station. The camera tracks the woman as she disappears into the crowd before returning to David, descending slightly to reveal his outstretched hands. People begin brushing against his fingers. Nothing happens for a few moments. Then a man wearing a yellow, checked shirt brushes past. Another flash cut. Three African Amercians are walking along a quiet street. A car crawls along the curb beside them. The man in the yellow shirt hangs out the window, smashes a bottle over the black woman’s head and screams, “GO BACK TO AFRICA!” as the car speeds off. Shyamalan cuts back to the present where David watches the man recede into the crowd. A man wearing a bright green shirt brushes past his field of vision and David experiences another flashback: “We are in a bedroom. A young man in his late teens looks down at a girl laying in a pole of overcoats on a bed. There is loud music and laughter coming from somewhere downstairs. The girl moans something in audible as she rolls on her side. Her skirt rides up her thigh. The young man stares at her and then gets up. He makes sure no one is looking before closing the door. He locks it from the inside.” Shyamalan returns to the present. David stares at the man in the green shirt. Obviously disoriented, stumbles backwards and brushes against a man in orange overalls. Another flashcut. The Orange Man stands at the doorway of a suburban house. When a man answers the door he ominously says, “I like your house. Can I come in?” A struggle ensures. Another flash cut: the owner of the house is dead, his lifeless body sprawled out on basement steps. David hears a woman scream. Realising she’s in peril, he follows the man from the murky interior of the train station out into the rainy street. Throughout this entire sequence, the audience is strongly encouraged to identify with David as he discovers the extent of his powers. Music, editing, camera movement and film speed are all used to engage the audience. David follows the Orange Man through the rain-drenched streets until he reaches a suburban house. David stands in the rain with his head bowed. Streams of water run down his poncho, glistening in the light of a nearby street lamp. The camera dollies in to reveal his determined expression. The score rises. David has found the purpose and meaning of his life. During this scene, the poncho was changed subtly to be more reminiscent of a superhero’s cape. As the costume designer notes: “The big design for him was the poncho. When he goes to do his heroic act, he takes on the mantle of hero, then we’re going into the comic book scenario…Originally, we were going to push the fabric as well as the whole scale and structure of the garment to give it a sense of drama. In the end, we kept the nature of the fabric the same, so we just changed the scale a bit. As you go through that sequence, it becomes slighly more dramatic. It’s very subtle. Unless you really study it, you wouldn’t notice it.” David slowly opens the door to the house. Unopened mail and clothes are strewn across the floor. A television is playing somewhere inside. David walks down the hallway, once again casting an imposing silhouette. He pushes open the basement door, the owner still sprawled out across the concrete steps. As David entered the house, the music subsided which makes the abrupt flash cuts to the body and another shot of the Orange Man storming into the house all the more shocking. David slowly closes the door and continues to explore the house, moving upstairs. Lighting makes a significant contribution to audience engagement during this scene, heightening audience anxiety as he moves through the house. Upstairs, David finds two children tied up in the bathroom: “A slightly overweight girl, probably fourteen years old is tied by her wrists with a phone cord to the metal towel rack in her bathroom. She sits with her arms pointed upward over her head. He knees tucked up to her chest. Next to her is her younger brother. A skinny boy, maybe twelve. He’s tied and seated in the same way. Their heads are leaned back against their arms. They’re completely listless. Eyes half mast. They watch as the door to the bathroom opens and the dark hooded figure of David Dunne steps in. His long dark slowing rain poncho still dripping water. He stands in the doorway for a moment before moving towards them. They don’t react in anyway as David reaches for the phone cord and unties them. They’re arms flop to their laps as they gaze up at the figure leaning over them. They boy blinks once slowly. David takes a step back and stares at them from under his hood.” David enters the master bedroom, framed through the curtains that billow in the balcony doors. There is a woman tied to a radiator. David looks out onto the balcony. The Orange Man suddenly appears behind him and pushes him over the edge. As David tumbles over the edge, Shyamalan uses a point of view shot from David’s perspective to engage the audience. David lands in the pool: “David lands on his stomach with a TREMENDOUS SLAP onto the nylon black tarp. There’s a thin layer of rain water on the tarp’s surface. David is laying on his cheek. Half his face is covered in water. Beat. David’s exposed eye looks around in a daze. The surface of the tarp gets pounded by the rain. David uses his hands to push his body off the tarp. His hands sink into the water as his pressure pushes the tarp down. THE FIRST SOUNDS OF NYLON SLIDING AGAINST CONCRETE START. David stops pushing. His vision catches the corner of the swimming pool as the tarp slides out from under the sand bags that hold it in place. The tarp sags. David becomes utterly still. THE SOUND CONTINUES ANYWAY. One by one the tarp starts sliding out from under the sand bags all around the edge of the pool. And then without warning, the tarp caves in. It folds around David as he and the tarp get pulled UNDER THE COLD DARK WATER. David’s body is tangled in the pool cover. His legs and arms thrash against the constricting black tarp. He’s drowning. GLIMPSES OF LIGHT FROM THE HOUSE PIERCE THE DARKNESS UNDER WATER. THE BLURRED IMAGE OF A DISTANT FIGURE HIGH ABOVE ON A BALCONY FLICKERS AND DISAPPEARS. The last of the tarp slides out from under the sandbags that old it in place around the edge of the pool. The rain keeps falling. The tarp moves like it’s alive underwater. It shifts and wraps David tighter with every movement. GLIMPSES OF LIGHT AGAIN. TWO SMALL FIGURES NOW STAND IN A BLURRED SILHOUETTE NEAR THE EDGE OF THE POOL. FLASHES OF SOMETHING SHINY THEY’RE HOLDING… A ROD OR POLE…IT’S SHAKY NEBULOUS IMAGE WAIVERS IN THE AIR ABOVE THE SURFACE. David’s only free hand reaches for the light. It catches the silver pole. The tangled mass of David and the tarp are pulled slowly towards the edge of the pool. David’s head and shoulders emerge from the darkness. He takes hold of the pool’s edge. Huge desperate breaths as he pulls his body out from the water and the grasp of the tarp. He hauls himself onto the ground. He sits hunched over in a dark mass, his head down under his hood. The rain poncho covering him like a blanket. Beat. He rises to his feet. The water rushes off of him. His breathing is slowing, calming. He stands in a silhouette from the light of the house. He turns and looks to the two small figures standing near the edge of the pool. The children from the bathroom stand still in the rain. They’re holding an aluminum pole with a brush head for cleaning the pool. They stare up at the hooded figure.” Music and point-of-view shots make a significant contribution to audience engagement during this scene. When he first sinks beneath the water, there is a conspicuous lack of music. Instead, all the audience can hear are the muffled sounds of water in an obvious attempt to heighten the realism of this scene. When he emerges from the pool, James Newton Howard’s heroic score once again rises. The children look up at David with awe. This is the moment where David truly becomes the hero he was destined to become. Inside, the Orange Man spits beers over the children’s mother. David Dunne grabs him around the neck. They struggle but David retains his vice-like grip, breaking his neck. In many ways, this is the resolution of the narrative. David has come to terms with his abilities and performed an act of heroism. Nevetheless, he must also reconcile the problems with his family. David hangs up the poncho in the hallway cupboard when he returns home. He gently lifts Audrey from her bed and carries her upstairs in a poignant scene of reconciliation reminiscent of when he carried her from the wreckage of the car. He lays beside her on the bed and embraces her. “I had a bad dream,” he says, referring the conversation in the restaurant. The next morning, while sititng down to breakfast, David pushes a newspaper across the table to his sone. Joseph looks at the article.
“Hero” rescues two children, parents found dead in house.
Police today are investigating what appears to have been a home invasion that left three dead in Bala Cynwyd. Law enforcement agents and detectives are baffled by the circumstances and motivations of a good samaritan who last night rescued two small children. Details of the incident are still sketchy but the police believe that after freeing the children the unknown hero struggled with and killed the house invader responsible for the deaths of the parents.
The police are still puzzling over the identity of the ‘hero’. The children described him as approximately 6 feet tall wearing a dark green hooded rain poncho. The children’s names have been withheld until notification of next of kin.
Jeremy’s eyes well up with tears. He looks at his father who nods and whispers, “You were right.” He smiles.
Later, David is talking to Elijah’s mother at an exhibition held at Limited Edition.
ELIJAH’S MOTHER: See the villain’s eyes? They’re larger than the other characters’. They insinuate a slightly skewed perspective of how they see the world. Just off normal.
DAVID: He doesn’t look scary.
ELIJAH’S MOTHER: That’s what I said to my son. He said, there’s always two kinds. The soldier villain who fights the hero with his hands, and then there’s the real threat. The brilliant and evil arch enemy who fights the hero with his mind.
DAVID: Are you Elijah’s mother?
ELIJAH’S MOTHER: I am. I’m helping him with the sale.
DAVID: It’s nice to meet you. I’m David Dunne.
ELIJAH’S MOTHER: He’s spoken of you. He says you’re becoming friends.
Shyamalan has become renowned for the trademark twists at the end of his films. The director confesses to a desire to make ‘feature length Twilight Zones’. Unbreakable is no exception. Elijah takes David into his office which is lined with comic books. There is a desk with computers. Elijah holds up the newspaper. “It has begun. Tell me something, David. When you woke up this morning, was it still there? The sadness?” David replies that it wasn’t. Elijah thinks for a moment, then says, “I think this is where we shake hands.”
When their hands touch, David experiences a series of flashes: Elijah sitting at an airport, there is a distant explosion he calmly leaves the lounge; Elijah drinking in a bar, an old man explaining that he knows ‘the building’s secrets…like, if there ever was a fire on floors one, two or three, everyone in that hotel would be burned alive; Elijah stepping out of a train and is warned by the driver that ‘passengers aren’t allowed in there.” As he looks around the room, David sees newspaper clippings, schematics and bomb making material. “Do you know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world. To not know why you’re here. That’s just an awful feeling…I almost gave up hope. There were so many times that I questioned myself. So many sacrifices just to find you. Now that we know who you are, we know who I am. I’m not a mistake. It all makes sense! In a comic, do you know how you can tell who the arch villain is going to be? He’s the exact opposite of the hero. And most time they’re friends like you and me! I should have known way back when, you know why David? Because of the kids…they called me Mr Glass.”
David Dunn led authorities to Limited Edition where evidence of three acts of terrorism was found.
Elijah Price is now in an institution for the criminally insane.