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Unbreakble: Vista Series

Of all the things we can credit M. Night Shyamalan — the gifted writer/director who turned 1999's The Sixth Sense into a surprise late-summer blockbuster — perhaps none is so impressive as the fact that he beat the "sophomore slump." All too often debut directors awash in critical and financial success are handed a blank check by a studio to do as they please, and after Sense Shyamalan probably could have gotten a Steven Spielberg-sized budget to follow his muse. Thankfully, Shyamalan's muse hasn't drifted too far from what made Sense such a hit — like its predecessor, Unbreakable (2000) is a dreamlike investigation of the paranormal, albeit with a comic-book veneer. Bruce Willis stars as David Dunn, a former college football star who lives in Philadelphia and works as a security guard at the local college football stadium. His marriage to wife Audrey (Robin Wright) is on the rocks, and the distance is growing between himself and his young son (Spencer Treat Clark). But a trip to New York lands David in a catastrophic train derailment — every passenger on board is killed, save himself. In fact, David hasn't suffered so much as a scratch. Learning of the wreck's sole survivor (Dunn has become something of a media celebrity), mysterious comic-book collector Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) approaches him with a simple question: "How often have you been sick?" David doesn't like the question, and the intense Price — who suffers from a degenerative bone disorder — makes him uncomfortable. But after reflection David soon learns that he is never ill, and that's not the only thing he discovers. In an era where plenty of potentially good films are diffused by script-doctors, special effects, and fast-food tie-ins, a talent like M. Night Shyamalan's is rare — thankfully, nothing gets in the way of the writer/director's chief asset, which is telling a damn good story. The marketing for Unbreakable seemed vague (likely by design) on its theatrical release, primarily by barely revealing the film's premise and saying next to nothing about the plot's higher arc. Unbreakable is that rare film where you can go in with the slightest of information, and thus revel in a story that takes its time but never fails to be totally engrossing. Shyamalan's style here very much resembles Kubrick, with numerous tableaus and long takes, wherein the story unfolds with a minimum of cinematic flourish. As for the "twist" ending, it has been a matter of debate since the film arrived. All this writer will say is that, yes, it does work — wonderfully, in fact. Rather than the sort of Hollywood plot-twist that dismantles much of the previous story, the final moments of Unbreakable flesh it out into something greater, but at the same time entirely within the archetype that Shyamalan has chosen. Seeing the film a second time does offer an alternate interpretation, but in this case the sum of the parts are greater, not merely different. Buena Vista's two-disc DVD edition of Unbreakable, the debut title in their "Vista Series," offers a strong anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) of the film on Disc One, with audio in both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1. Supplements on Disc Two include a 14-minute "Behind the Scenes" featurette that offers substantive information about the film and is more than a press release (major spoilers are here, so avoid Disc Two until you have seen the film proper). Also on board is a 19-minute look at "Comic Books and Superheroes," offering interviews with prominent artists; a look at the train station sequence with three audio mixes and two angles (storyboards vs. film); seven deleted scenes; and "Night's First Fight Sequence," one of Shyamalan's home-made childhood movies, which is actually sort of funny and includes an introduction from Night himself. Dual-DVD digipak in slipcase.

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