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Chesterton House

A Center for Christian Studies at Cornell


Aristotle, in his Poetics, describes the classic literary hero falling from greatness when a tragic flaw is exposed. The story, then, is the struggle to reclaim the heights, wiser and nobler than before. This is the stuff of legends from Ulysses to Hamlet to Darth Vader.

Our appreciation for heroes in everyday life has been renewed by the tragedy suffered on 9/11. Many are singing praises and wreathing accolades to fire fighters, police officers, and ordinary Joes who have risked and given their lives in acts of impulsive courage and selfless daring.

Who are your heroes? What does it take to be a hero? Could you be a hero?

In Unbreakable M. Night Shyamalan takes this important, personal, and epic theme and tells a story much in the same style and tone of his blockbuster sensation, The Sixth Sense. David Dunn, thoughtfully and honestly portrayed by Bruce Willis, is a guard for a local security company. He is struggling to find his place in the world as a husband, father, and man. Elijah Price, played with riveting intensity by Samuel Jackson, is a collector of classic comic books. He is known as "Mr Glass" by those who know of his rare disease that makes bones fragile and brittle. The two men meet after David is the sole survivor of a commuter train derailment - he walks away from the heaps of steaming wreckage without a scratch. Yet both men are deeply broken, and long for a place to belong and call home.

The story unfolds as Elijah observes, "Real life doesn't fit into little boxes that were drawn for it." He muses intently about the possibility that our lives are connected to some larger reality, the greatness and the idealism that survives only in comic book heroes and villains. Shyamalan gives us a compelling and deliberate character study of flawed individuals with astonishing gifts. Superbly crafted and photographed, elegantly directly, subtle, refined, puzzling, personal, mysterious - Unbreakable invites us to think about what it means to be noble, to know the satisfaction of being valued by someone else, of donning even for a moment the mask and cape of our favorite superhero.

-Steve Froehlich