David Dunn

Of all the Wednesday Warriors I’ve written about, David Dunn, the mild-mannered hero of the movie Unbreakable, and today’s highlight, is one of my favorites. If you haven’t seen the film directed by The Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan, then I don’t want to spoil it for you. You can skip to the last paragraph to get the general gist of the film. For everyone else, keep reading.

Bruce Willis as David Dunn
Bruce Willis as David Dunn

A train wreck leaves everyone onboard dead except for David Dunn (Bruce Willis). In fact, he doesn’t only survive, but he walks away from the tragedy without a scratch. Returning home, his wife Audrey (Robin Wright), with whom before the accident he wasn’t getting along, takes her husband’s survival as a sign that their troubled marriage is worth saving.

In another part of Philadelphia, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) finds himself reading about the accident and about David’s miraculous event. No one should have survived that crash. No one should have just walked away without a scratch. As with David, there is more to Elijah than anyone knows.

One day, David’s son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) retreats in the shadows as his father lifts weights. It’s one of those scenes where the audience is slowly discovering something about David that Joseph is realizing himself. What exactly does Joseph see?

Joseph sees that his dad is not ordinary. Joseph sees his dad is capable of lifting more than anyone could possibly lift. Joseph sees his father as extraordinary.

David Dunn of Unbreakable
David Dunn of Unbreakable

In another scene, David asks Audrey if she remembers the last time he was sick. He comes to the realization that he’s never been sick–not even a sniffle.

On the other hand, at one point or another, Elijah has broken every bone in his body. Sickness follows him wherever he goes. Confined to a wheelchair is something he’d rather not admit to but can’t avoid.

From there, David dons a poncho and wanders the city. In a busy metropolis train station he extends his arms and allows the people to brush his hands. It is then a superhero rises from the devastation his life could have been. No longer does he wander to discover his abilities. He knows who he is. With a poncho acting as his cape, he can rescue those in need. He can give aid. And his life has turned from a helpless victim to that of a strong father figure boys could emulate.

Lastly, every superhero has an arch villain with whom to contend. If David were unbreakable, with neither train wreck nor bomb unable to harm him, then logically, someone who is on the opposite side of the spectrum, breakable, will have to be his archenemy. There is only one person who could fit that description.

As with all superhero origin movies, the character has weaknesses to overcome, strengths to discover and dark demons to fight. In David’s case, there is more to his life than what others may see. He possesses a disturbing curiosity as to how far he can go with his abilities. The critical question, however, is much more personal. How far would we go should we discover we are not who we think we are?

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Have you seen Unbreakable? What do you think of the David and Elijah relationship?

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18 thoughts on “David Dunn

  1. This was an awesome movie, and the fact that within a superhero movie they look at the elements of a superhero movie, through a guy who believes that such must exist, knowing all along that he would be the villain in his quest to find the hero. It’s such a tangled web when you think about it, and that’s what is so awesome about it, because it leaves you thinking.

    • Marvel has had a number of movies based on their stable of heroes. DC has only done Superman & Batman. I’m deliberately not counting ” Smallville “, ” Gotham “, ” Arrow “, ” The Flash , ” Supergirl ” TV series, or even original Wonder Woman or the attempt to reboot it which bombed miserably. Just thought I’d mention.
      Then there was ” Catwoman ” which had zero ties to the DC character, & couldn’t be saved by Halle Berry.

      • Your comment reminds me of why I’m so interested in the Disney Marvel franchise as an industrial and cultural phenomenon. I have heard it said that Marvel didn’t really get it right until they established their own studio. Despite some apparent infighting, these people really seem to know their demographic. I don’t think any other efforts at the superhero genre in movies have come close in terms of quality. Take care.

      • I don’t know about Disney – They seem to have a penchant for branding other people’s – living & dead – property with the Disney logo. Didn’t they acquire Star Wars as another franchise ? Disney is like a kraken that grows extra tentacles, & yet they were / are possibly the biggest purveyors of entertainment to Gen – X & later ones.

      • I’m certainly not trying to defend all of their business practices, but I am interested in the social and cultural significance of what they are doing, good or bad. And you’re right – they have acquired the Star Wars franchise.

      • After I got older ( relatively ), 20’s & 30’s,I took note of the stories from different that they set their seal on. ” Pinocchio “, ” The Three Musketeers “, ” Swiss Family Robinson “, etc., & it bothered me somewhat. I guess it’s not plagiarism if it’s in the public domain or if there have been significant enough alterations to stories & characters
        I remember an account by Harlan Ellison where he was in the Disney studios cafeteria with some friends, & discussed doing a Disney porn movie. Roy Disney was a table or 2 removed, & you can guess what happened after that little incident….. Among other things, Ellison lost his parking space. 🙂

  2. I lioked the simplicity of the notion – opposites must exist, and they must be in opposition. Also (spoiler!) I loved the fact that the guy who mentors David to reveal his power, the guy who, in a way, MADE David who he becomes, is his true enemy.

  3. I’m with “qulall” on this. The movie was startling and disturbing but I could not bring myself to change the channel. I had to watch it all the way through. I like the breadth of characters Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis have shown in their various movies. Good guys or bad guys, they are both really great actors.
    Leslie

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