By Joe Lozito
M. Night Shyamalan is in the unenviable position of having to follow up his 1999 hit "The Sixth Sense." His sophomore effort "Unbreakable" is another film with an interesting premise: a man (Bruce Willis) is the only survivor of a train wreck and begins to wonder why he has never been sick a day in his life. This time, however, the film does not live up to its promise.
"The Sixth Sense" had such an intense style that it is impossible not to draw comparisons. Mr. Shyamalan definitely plays with the same bag of tricks here. In fact, "Unbreakable" almost feels like someone trying to rip-off Mr. Shyamalan's style. The dialogue has more pauses than a High School production of Samuel Beckett. And while that works up to a point, you find yourself wanting to grab the characters and shake them out of their introspective stupors.
Mr. Willis is joined by Samuel L. Jackson as a comic book store owner who is all too 'breakable' and obsessed with Mr. Willis' survival. Robin Wright Penn pieces together a fine performance from her scenes as Mr. Willis' estranged wife. And again, Mr. Willis is joined by a thrice-named child actor (Spencer Treat Clark), this time playing his son. Mr. Clark is not as effective as "Sense's" Haley Joel Osment, but then he isn't the centerpiece of this film.
No, "Unbreakable" rests squarely on Bruce Willis' considerable charisma. Thankfully, he has the everyman quality to pull it off. However, he doesn't have enough script to support him. "Unbreakable" feels underwritten, as though Mr. Shyamalan was so eager to ride the success of his previous film that he rushed this one into production. And, yes, he tacked on the requisite surprise ending, but nothing that will require repeat viewings the way "Sense" did.
And that's fine. Mr. Shyamalan shouldn't need to try to recapture lightning in a bottle. He's a talented filmmaker with a good ear for characters and dialogue. Now he just needs time to cook up a better plot.