Published on January 3rd, 2015 | by Allan Brown0
Movie Review: Unbroken (2014)
Running Time: 137 mins
Director: Angelina Jolie
Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson, Laura Hillenbrand (Novel)
Cast: Jack O’Connell, Takamasa Ishihara, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Jai Courtney
Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling novel comes Angelina Jolie’s valiant second directorial offering; Unbroken.
The inspirational true life story of Louis Zamperini is one that almost defies belief. When America declared war on Japan in December 1941, it changed the course of many young men’s lives, and none more so than Olympic gold medallist Louis Zamperini. After enlisting in the US military, Zamperini fought heroically for his country as a bombardier, survived being stranded at sea for 47 days without food or water after crashing in the South Pacific, to then being captured by the enemy and made to work in Japanese Prisoner of War Camp were endless punishment and gruelling labour was a way of life, until the end of of the war. This is his story.
Between the stale and clichéd screenplay were lines like “If you can take it, you can make it” (that come thick n fast) and Jolie’s insistence of overplaying sentimentality at every turn (until it becomes borderline patronising) turns one of the most inspiring WWII story’s ever told, into a very bland, formulaic, mediocre Hollywood film.
Some key characters (Phil) fall out of the story without further mention, while others are given no time or indeed substance (Cup, Fitzgerald), other than a few throwaway lines to establish themselves, ultimately making them nothing more than meaningless background noise.
Jack O’Connell (’71, Starred Up) does offer a compelling transformative performance, showcasing real commitment and dedication to the role, but sadly again, he is let down by a script that offers little support, or anything to get his teeth into past the physical and mental deterioration of his character. Prison Guard Mutsuhiro Watanabe aka “The Bird” (Takamasa Ishihara) (our primary antagonist) frequently falls victim to overplaying his character, which sadly at times feels more Hanna-Barbera cartoon villain than sadistic war criminal. This to offers as a disconnect.
Throughout the films length we are inundated with images of prisoner brutality, as well as the ever present themes of forgiveness and the strength of the human spirit. However, so much of the film is devoted to these broad-stroked, sugar coated idealisms, that we ultimately become numb to them; as Jolie continues to ladle them on thicker and thicker, just to make sure we all get the point. As a result, we never really connect with the individual characters emotionally, or really get to know any of them past the superficial, as we trudge through more trite, romanticised lessons in morality, without a shade of grey to be seen.
Summary: Despite a triumphant lead performance by the ever impressive Jack O’Connell and some stunning cinematography by Roger Deakins, Unbroken sadly falls tragically short of its overzealous reach.