Bruce Willis plays a security guard who discovers he has supernatural powers after a traumatic accident in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (B). Willis is charismatic and emotive opposite a mesmerizing Samuel L. Jackson as a mysterious mentor. The writer/director’s trademark twists and turns are not quite as revelatory as his Sixth Sense, but he vanquishes himself nicely with judiciously paced thrills and intrigue.
Bryan Singer’s X-Men (B+) is an epic superhero film and apt allegory for outsiders as so-called “mutants” find their way to a special academy for people with special powers and prepare for a clash between good and evil. Patrick Stewart plays the protagonist professor versus Ian McKellan as the sinister mutant with the ability to control metals, who has a disturbing past from WWII. Hugh Jackman is the breakout star as the wily, claw-bearing Wolverine, and Halle Barry and Anna Paquin are among the female warriors in the ensemble. Singer orchestrates quite a streamlined story given the overstuffed number of characters and continually impresses with his bag of tricks. This clearly marks the spot of a fresh new franchise.
Telling its story backwards, Christopher Nolan’s Memento (A) may be the only logical way to get to the central mystery of a man with short-term memory who knows his wife is dead but doesn’t know who killed her. As played by Guy Pearce, the lead character is a fascinating enigma. Nolan shows his penchant for a puzzle with a spectacular through-line of storytelling and a most excellent payoff.
Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (A) is a haunting look at the effect of addiction through three interlocking stories. Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly are among the amazing actors headlining this ensemble. Shocking and mesmerizing visuals mark this audacious director’s wicked and direct style.