Friday, June 27, 2008

Unbreakable: the love in continues ...

Damn near 1,000 words on 'Unbreakable' last night and I didn't even mention the look of the film, the extended takes or the performances.

Quickly, then, before I descend into the purple realms of sycophantic fan-boy prose:

1) The look of the film. Eduardo Serra's cinematography: autumnal; richly evocative of the characters' doubts and their loneliness; dark when it needs to be, but without tipping entirely into gothicism.

2) The extended takes. Further proof that Shyamalan has no interest in MTV-style cutting or show-offery. The man gives his actors space to work and the opportunity to realise the full potential of their performances. His commitment to extended takes, in 'Unbreakable' more than anywhere else, is comparable to Tarkovsky.

3) The performances:

(i) Bruce Willis builds on his introspective, controlled turn in 'The Sixth Sense' to deliver what is arguably a career best; restrained and disciplined.

(ii) Samuel L. Jackson is simply peerless. In a filmography stuffed with iconic moments (from "I don't recall asking you a goddamned thing" to "AK-47, when you absolutely positively gotta kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitute" to something about some motherfucking snakes on a motherfucking plane), I'm going to go out on a limb and say that he achieves his apotheosis in 'Unbreakable'.

The scene in question introduces us to Elijah. He's about to sell an incredibly rare drawing, pre-dating the first issue of the comic book the character debuted in, to a yuppie positively dripping with cash. "Jeb's gonna love this," the yuppie enthuses.

"Jeb?" Elijah repeats, an icy tone creeping into his voice. "Is this a child we're talking about?"

The yuppie affirms that, yes, the aforesaid Jeb is his young son.

Elijah rounds on him. "Do you see any Teletubbies in here? Do you see a slender plastic tag clipped to my shirt with my name printed on it? Did you see a little Asian child with a blank expression on his face sitting outside on a mechanical helicopter that shakes when you put a quarter in it? No? Well, that's what you see at a toy store. And you must think you're in a toy store, because you're here shopping for an infant named Jeb."

Samuel L. Jackson hobbling around on a cane, his bones in danger of fracture if he starches his shirts too much, and he's still being a badass, voice dripping with contempt.

And doing so without using the word 'motherfucker'.


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