Quentin Tarantino is reputed for being a true cinephile, having worked at a video store before deciding to enter the world of cinema. He has actively worked to introduce American audiences to foreign films, ranging from the works of the Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho to the magical oeuvre of Hong Kong pioneer Wong Kar-wai.
When he is working on new projects, Tarantino is often asked about contemporary gems that he admires. He has often championed criminally underrated and neglected works as modern masterpieces, but on one occasion, Tarantino surprised everyone by naming an M. Night Shyamalan film as one of the best cinematic experiences of our time.
Over the course of his career, the divisive figure of Shyamalan has made a lot of errors, but it is generally agreed upon that the 2000 neo-noir thriller Unbreakable is one of his finest works. It stars Bruce Willis as a security guard who finds out that he has superhuman abilities after making it out of a train accident alive. Unbreakable has become a cult classic in recent years, especially after Tarantino included it among the 20 best films that have been released since 1992.
Tarantino explained: “The final film on my Top 20 list is M. Night Shyamalamadingdong’s Unbreakable which… not only has Bruce Willis‘ favourite performance on film that he has ever given (I think he is absolutely magnificent in the film) [but] also is a brilliant retelling of the Superman mythology. To me, the film was very obscure when it came out as far as what it was about.”
Adding, “I actually think that they did themselves a disservice because you can actually break down what the film was about by one sentence. I think [it] would have proved far more intriguing than their ad campaign which is basically: ‘What if Superman was here on Earth and didn’t know he was Superman?’ [That’s] what the film is about but you don’t know that until you actually see the movie. Unbreakable is one of the masterpieces of our time.”
Despite the high praise, Shyamalan felt he had more to add to the final product. Although it wasn’t how he imagined it, the filmmaker decided to move on to this next projects: “You need to be in a good place. Unbreakable didn’t necessarily work out exactly the way I wanted it to. But now I would go back and tell my younger self, ‘That column is not your concern. Keep going.’ Failure is very cleansing, and success is very confusing.”