was released, Bruce Willis confirmed that the film was the first in a proposed trilogy. Viewed in that context, this is a tantalizing and audaciously low-key thriller, with a plot that twists in several intriguing and unexpected directions. Standing alone, however, this somber, deliberately paced film requires patient leaps of faith--not altogether surprising, since this is writer-director M. Night Shyamalan's daring follow-up toThe Sixth Sense
. While just as assured as that earlier, phenomenal hit,Unbreakable
is the work of a filmmaker whose skill exceeds his maturity, its confident style serving a story that borders on juvenile. However, Shyamalan's basic premise--that comic books are the primary conduit of modern mythology--is handled with substantial relevance.
Willis plays a Philadelphia security guard whose marriage is on the verge of failing when he becomes the sole, unscathed survivor of a devastating train wreck. When prompted by a mysterious, brittle-boned connoisseur of comic books (Samuel L. Jackson), he realizes that he's been free of illness and injury his entire life, lending credence to Jackson's theory that superheroes--and villains--exist in reality, and that Willis himself possesses extraordinary powers. Shyamalan presents these revelations with matter-of-fact gravity, and he draws performances (including those of Robin Wright Penn and Spencer Treat Clark, as Willis's wife and son) that are uniformly superb. The film's...