Ladies, gentlemen, and other such creatures, today we look at the film that is Unbroken, directed and produced by Angelina Jolie. It’s based on the non-fiction novel by Laura Hillenbrand called Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.
The story is that of Louis Zamperini, a US Olympic runner, who falls captive to the Japanese during the second World War. We follow his journey from his Olympics debut to his inevitable capture. We see the struggles of his fellow soldiers and himself as they try to preserve what small piece of humanity they can in the brutal and dehumanizing conditions of the P.O.W. camp. The camp is run by Mutsuhiro “Bird” Watanabe, a young and bitter corporal, who goes to great lengths to punish and humiliate Louis, mostly because of his status as an Olympic athlete. Two strong wills collide, as we watch the power struggle between these two men; one a captive, the other a captor, and both unrelenting.
So, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The movie is well polished, the scenes are set up nicely with a good pace. Jack O’Connell’s performance as Louis Zamperini is alarmingly strong. He show us a great range of ability and skill as he goes through the highs and lows of the character’s emotional journey. He makes acting look easy, and he is absolutely flawless in every single shot he’s in. Nothing but respect for the man. The rest of the cast did similarly as well, though none really stood out as much. Corporal Watanabe, played by Takamasa Ishihara seemed to be a bit over the top in most of the scenes he was in, but perhaps that was just director’s take. Even so, he gave a pretty solid performance as well.
What the movie really lacked was direction. While the first set up of the film isn’t too bad, with the plot unraveling at a steady pace, the latter part of the movie feels like one big drag. Not a lot of development happens, and the story’s pace slows down to a crawl. And for about 30 minutes or so, we just have torture scenes followed by motivation scenes in constant succession. And with a lack of character or plot development, this quickly becomes dull, and as a viewer you grow numb to any awe or inspiration you should be experiencing.
Also, as most “inspirational” movies, this movie wants you to take a lot at face value. We have one or two scenes where Louis is being reprimanded by his family for his hooliganism, and is subsequently told that he’s capable of better things if he would only try. Next scene he tries, ergo said attitude for life. I understand that the movie is supposed to cover roughly 15 years of a character’s life, and that screen time is limited, but as a viewer I feel I am being cheated. Maybe it’s simply this genre of film, and not the director, but again, this felt weak. The movie tries to awe with its ques of epic soundtrack and cheesy lines as opposed to actual character development and drama. For that, it gets some ‘fail points.’
All in all, it’s an average movie. Nothing special, nothing too horrible. If you have any interest in the history of Louis Zamperini, or simply that time period/topic, you might like this movie. It’s worth its money if nothing else. If you’re standing in front of the showtimes board at the theater and you’re juggling between this and Madagascar, Horrible Bosses 2, Night at The Museum 2, and other similar garbage, you might as well spend your money wisely and watch this. Otherwise, meh.