Unbreakable Blu-ray Review

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by Chris McEneany Apr 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

  • Movies review

    Unbreakable Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £18.59


    Right, folks, there's no getting away from the fact that Unbreakable is a dark and dreary looking film. It has been designed that way and, as a result, it simply won't leap from the screen at you or pop with glorious 1080p vibrancy no matter how well transferred it is.

    But the 2.35:1 image here still looks very pleasing indeed. The transfer is very accurate to the beautiful sheens of blue that dominate the palette and the occasionally monochromatic look of the picture is actually deeply stylish and perfectly mood-enhancing. Colours aren't the most powerful around, but they definitely look deeper, stronger and more natural than they did on the SD edition, with flesh tones that are suitably un-Hollywood-esque and pallor that is authentic for the environment. The spreading blood stain on the dying victim in the hospital looks fine, as does the faint traces of the stuff glimpsed briefly during the house-invasion sequence. Daylight scenes have more vividness than they had previously and the varied covers of the comics in the store stand out more, too.

    Blacks are more robust and offer better shadows. Some shots are notoriously dark, but there is no element of detail crushing going on, meaning that some classic imagery - Dunn barely visible beneath his hood, for example - are particularly striking and have an inky depth that really boosts the mood. Detail is also greatly enhanced. Close-ups offer lots of extra information to faces, hair and clothing etc. Strangely enough, it is Elijah who seems to benefit the most from this extra clarity and definition. The interior of his car is much clearer now, as is his cane and the artwork displayed on his walls. Some of the location shots - the brickwork behind Elijah as he follows the man in the camouflaged jacket and the cathedral behind Dunn after the funeral service really stand out now. Individual comic books in the store are more detailed, too.

    Yet three-dimensionality is still largely absent from the image. Certain shots seem to cry out for it, such as Elijah and Dunn talking at the end of the stadium tunnel, or close-ups of Willis' face peering out from beneath his cap and hood, yet the picture doesn't really seem to maximise on this. It is not flat, though. There is still a fair degree of depth to the imagery - most notably when Elijah has parked himself defiantly at the end of the comic store, or is pursuing the guy with the hidden gun. But when Dunn does the rounds in the train station and raises his hands to get the “vibes”, there is plenty of depth to the image.

    A definite improvement over the SD version, folks, and one that doesn't exhibit any compression defects such as artefacts, smearing or banding. A smidgeon of edge enhancement poses no problem at all.
    Unbreakable Picture


    Well, I quite enjoyed the PCM 5.1 mix that Unbreakable has on Blu-ray. It is definitely a worthwhile upgrade to the older DD 5.1 that was present on my R2 copy.

    Howard's score has a sweep, clarity and richness that only makes me wish I liked it more. It moves eloquently in from all around and suffuses the environment well. Ambience such as footsteps, doors, voices and activity emanates from all around, which is nice and helps to immerse you in the film. The moments of quiet - such as when Dunn and Joseph first meet Elijah - are beautifully rendered too, enabling the atmosphere to drip through and the dialogue to shine.

    The bass levels are actually quite riotous. The beginnings of the train crash with its ominous rumblings, the deeper sections of Howard's score, the clanging of the heavy weights and bedroom tussle with its wall-slamming impacts are all well presented with depth and solidity. Even the bone-breaking fall down the steps has an aggression that is surprisingly emphatic. But it is the detail within the soundscape that wins Unbreakable its high points. The quintessential test-piece (for me, at any rate) of a good old rainstorm is given some exemplary sonics here. The pattering of rain, the dripping of it off Dunn's hood, the splashing of it beside the pool and upon the cover that ends up wrapping around him - all impeccably placed and crystal clear. The voices of the crowds in the stadium, or the babble in the train station; the distancing of the kids shouting as they play football and Joseph inviting his dad to come and join them; the scintillating crash of glass during that horrible moment when a bottle is smashed over a woman's head etc - all dealt from the mix with clarity and precision. Elijah's voice calling out to the man in the camouflage jacket carries great distinction, too.

    There are a couple of problems, however. For one thing, there is a noticeable drop in the mix with regards to dialogue. Several instances had snatches of speech that were a little too low to hear comfortably - admittedly, they were meant to be hushed words, but they should still have been clear enough to hear without straining. There are also two points at which the sound noticeably glitches - in a rear speaker and then the centre later on. I've now viewed (or, more importantly, heard) this disc on two separate machines and sound systems and the problem remained. Since then, I have heard of two other copies that exhibit the same problem. It only lasts a second, but the fact remains that it shouldn't be there.

    Overall, however, this is a great track though that gets over its slight niggles by being so detailed and subtle with its sound design, yet powerful when needed.
    Unbreakable Sound


    Touchstone's disc arrives with nearly all the features that graced the original SD edition, and at first glance, they seem quite respectable. But a fairly poor, and devoutly EPK “Behind The Scenes” lets the side down. Even coming in at around fifteen minutes this feels like waffle and promotional padding, nothing more.

    The selection of Deleted Scenes are much better. Each coming with an introduction from Shyamalan to explain their place, genesis and just why they ended up getting the chop, they come to almost half an hour of extra footage. There is some good stuff here. Amongst the extended character builds, we have a great scene of Elijah as a child on a fairground ride, as well as a more visual denouement for his character and some more emotional moments with Joseph. Actually some of this stuff is definitely good enough to have remained in the movie, although I agree that their inclusion may not be strictly necessary to tell the story.

    Another featurette chronicles the genre from the comic book point of view, and this is quite good, although nothing new to fans of the format. Lasting for around 19 minutes, Comic Books And Superheroes is hosted by Samuel L. Jackson and goes back to the format's roots in the glowing Golden Age, before establishing the societal and political climates over the ensuing decades and the powerful affect that they have had upon the stories on the printed page. For the uninitiated, this is a smart starting point to understanding the genre and its lasting influences.

    Then there is a brief - and now very dated - look at the train station sequence via multi-angle views of the original storyboards and final shots. This lasts for around four minutes.

    Finally, we are treated to seeing Shyamalan's First Fight Sequence - a three-minute bit of amateur fluff that the fledgling filmmaker made with two mates whilst still a kid. Ho-hum. The thing is he hasn't actually made many more fight sequences, has he?
    Unbreakable Extras


    I get tired of people claiming that to enjoy Unbreakable you have to be a comic-book fan. I'm a huge comic-book and superhero fan and I don't really see the connection between Shyamalan's dark fable and the Marvel/DC/whatever ethos as being all that exclusive. He takes the foundation stone of superheroes and villains but explores it in a much different manner. Again, parallels with the TV show Heroes seem popular to make, but Shyamalan's take on the concept is far more insular, psychological and consequently less, well, comic-book than you would think. The film displays a complex treatise on the well-known form and style, but it does so in a way that is alienating and, for some, quite dry, sedate and boring. For me, Unbreakable works well on one essential level - atmosphere - but drops the ball on many others. However, Shyamalan's errors are not enough to ruin the film by any stretch of the imagination - he would go on to do that spectacularly well with The Village and The Lady In The Water - and the story remains a frustratingly enjoyable one. Elusive in narrative integrity yet profoundly emotional in mood and lyricism, Unbreakable is dark, disturbing and, for all its shambolic unfathomability, surprisingly simple. Perhaps the mistake that we all tend to make with regards to his films is that we are looking for complications and tricks when they aren't really there, instead of just letting the tale, no matter now whimsical it may be, flow over us.

    Touchstone's disc carries over most of the extra features from its prior releases, and it presents the film with a wonderful image and a simply superb sound design that is full of intricacies and three-dimensionality. For fans, this is a no-brainer. Get it today. For those on the brink - well, if you didn't like it first time around, you may find more in it with a fresh viewing now, or you may still hate it. Basically, there is no give or take with a Shyamalan movie. Some of them simply creep up on you and if they catch you with your guard down - you're smitten.
    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.59

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