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Face-Off: The Sixth Sense vs. Unbreakable

05.30.2013by: Paul Huffman
For last weeks Face-Off, we anticipated the release of Fast & Furious 6 with a match up between two of the characters Vin Diesel is famous for in Riddick and Dominic Toretto. Short story short, you peeps and I love Riddick. I expected to be a shut out quite honestly, but Toretto had his supporters here and there. This made me happy, as I have enjoyed Dominic Toretto well enough.

For this week, to gear up for the release of After Earth, we'll be visiting some early M. Night Shyamalan greatness in a match between The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. With these two films M Night became a man to watch out for. Sixth Sense is still a favorite for many today in terms of thrillers that floored our asses, and to this day me and many others still love the prospect of a sequel to Unbreakable. Over the years M Nights stock has fallen considerably as many are of the opinion the quality of his films aren't what was promised to us with these first two films, an opinion I can't exactly disagree with. But for a while, M Night's brand of filmmaking was one of the best things around and these two films paved that road. Let's dissect.
Performances
Obviously of note in the Sixth Sense is Haley Joel Osment's turn as the tormented young boy that sees dead people that don't know they are dead. That boy showed some serious chops, and it's a shame that for the most part he didn't really take off after Sixth Sense. Bruce Willis gave a performance I wasn't used to seeing and I dug it...so somber, not a sign of cracking wise that he was famous for. The unsung hero of this film to me though is Toni Collette, she gave such a desperate performance and her last scene in the film had be crying like a sh*thead toddler with a skinned knee.
Bruce Willis went even further with this film in portraying something that couldn't be further from the actor he's been most of his career. But that performance definitely fit the character being brought to life, going into the film seems like the dude was so damn unhappy with life I'd be acting depressed as all hell too. Samuel L. Jackson rocked it in this film, almost to the point that I would rather have seen the film completely from Jackson's character's point of view. He was the more compelling guy to watch this time around.
Tone
Sixth Sense set up a mood in the films opening few minutes that didn't let up for the rest of the film, M Night really pulled off the suspense beautifully in the Sixth Sense. In terms of the films visuals, in contrast to the dry tone of Unbreakable, Sixth Sense had colors that were more vibrant...even to the point of M Night consciously using several colors as ways to drop hints as to where certain plot points were going. There are still those subtle moments, where the musical score kicks in just the right way, that still creep the f*ck out of me. Great atmosphere for a thriller/horror.
One word can describe the look and feel of Unbreakable, and that word is bleak. Dry (yet effective) performances, dry colors...where Sixth Sense had some life and some passion into how it looked, the most vibrant color featured in the film is Sam Jackson's wardrobe. Loved that purple get up. This lack of life wasn't exactly detrimental to the film, as it fit with the mindset of every single character of the film...there was no color to the life of David Dunn and his family, they were in a dark place and the tone of the film made us feel that too.
Soundtrack
I briefly mentioned how effective James Newton Howard was in setting a terrifying tone for the moments of horror in the Sixth Sense. Today, I have grown tired of the use of the musical score to try to force a reaction out of the audience, it's become quite cliche. But damn, there was something about how Howard did it in Sixth Sense that just made it work. In the films closing minutes, Howard didn't let us down when it came to the emotional impact as well, you had to feel for Willis' character as he was coming to his realization. It is possible to go overboard with the score for moments like this, to where it almost becomes a parody of itself. Howard handled everything in this film beautifully.
The soundtrack to Unbreakable is actually one of my favorite aspects of the film, I have the suite on my I Pod as a matter of fact. Two moments stick out in mind when it comes to the score in Unbreakable. One being the scene with David in the train station scoping out the public with his new found "power." My second favorite cue we heard twice in the film when David embraced his heroic destiny in the abducted families home, the same cue is heard again at the end of the film and that's where it packed its emotional punch for me. I felt anger and pity for Sam Jackson's character in that moment and it's the score that stuck with me for a while after I saw the film. Howard nailed it with this film.
Twist Ending
The twist ending has been the M.O for pretty much the entirety of M. Night's career, and this first one worked. It's hard to say if I would have been as floored with the ending being the audience member that I am today, I would have watched for the signs had the film hit the scene today. Alas, when this film came out I kicked myself in the ass for not seeing the twist of the man that didn't know he was dead. Dug the flashbacks to the hints I should have picked up on, bottom line I loved that I was a young naive viewer so that I could get the full effect the ending was trying to convey.
Unbreakable had that twist ending that packed a great emotional punch and was surprising enough because at the time I expected something to happen, but didn't know exactly what to expect. It kills me to say, but from a holy sh*t I didn't see that coming standpoint the ending of Unbreakable didn't have the same effect as that of the Sixth Sense. The viewers knew the comic book undertones and figured something like this had to give. Also, I guess some points have to be taken away for adding the element of what happened to Elijah with viewers thinking it would have had a bigger gut punch without it. I would have to agree.
The Sixth Sense
So there you have it folks, I was toying with the idea of making this match a tie to leave the verdict to you lot as this was one of the most difficult Face-Off's for me to judge. I love me some Unbreakable, but as I was thinking about it Sixth Sense has more replay value for me to admire the performances of Haley Joel and Toni Collette. Even Bruce Willis had more life to his role in Sixth Sense. But that's not to say Unbreakable does not deserve the win, couldn't be further from the truth. With that, time for you to strike back.

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at [email protected] with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which M. Night Shyamalan film is your favorite?
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