Title – Unbroken (2014)
Director – Angelina Jolie (In the Land of Blood and Honey)
Cast – Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Takamasa Ishihara, Jai Courtney
Plot – Based on the true life story of Olympic runner turned POW Louis Zamperini (O’Connell) and his trials over adversity in the harsh conditions of World War 2.
“If I can take it, I can make it”
Review by Eddie on 2/02/2015
It would be right to ask how such an incredible and out of the ordinary true life story could become such an ordinary run of the mill film? The answer however can’t be easily given. Is it “spoilt-brat” Angelina Jolie’s stoic yet uninspired direction? A weakish script that no less than 4 accomplished writers including the Coen Brothers worked on? Perhaps it’s the fine yet strangely emotionally distant performances from the films leads? What makes Unbroken such an impressively average film could be anyone of these things and it’s a shame that this once touted Oscar contender is what it is.
So many things in Unbroken scream quality, from the hugely impressive and well-staged opening aerial dogfight, the often stunning frames captured by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins through to the committed and perhaps star making turn from up and coming superstar Jack O’Connell, there is without question a lot of finely crafted movie making on show here yet it’s not enough to suggest Unbroken is anything but middle tier.
This feeling of fluctuation between high quality and hallmark movie staples stems from a not always consistent flow, a challenge the filmmakers no doubt had when trying to adapt Laura Hillenbrand’s extensive and well renowned biography of Louis Zamperini. Zamperini’s stunning life so vividly captured on page fly’s by in mere minutes on screen and in some instances disappears all together while other key moments of his life such as his terrible ordeal on the open oceans during World War 2 take up large chunks of the films 130 minute run time. We get these key scenes to make us feel some of Zamperini’s overcoming’s yet we never feel invested in the man, for such an horrific and human courage filled story, the film barely ever draws out emotion from the viewer and this can only be attributed to the fact we never feel invested in a character we don’t really get know, it’s certainly not from bad acting.
Jack O’Connell, so impressive in the recent film Starred Up, does a commendable and committed job at bringing this larger to life figure to screen, yet with a role that is at times utterly underwritten and un-fleshed out, he can only do so much. Unbroken is absolutely Louis’s story and we never get a proper feel for who this man is and from those around him like Garret Hedlund’s fellow POW Fitzgerald through to Domhnall Gleeson’s pilot Phil, we also don’t get much of a feel for those that surrounded Zamperini through his darkest hours. Other elements of his life such as his youth and time as an Olympic runner get the short shift as victims of the films aforementioned flow troubles.
Unbroken is very far from a bad film but it’s also not a great one by a very large margin. Jolie in her second feature film as director shows a keen eye for an image and a casting choice yet on the basis of this effort, has yet to master the art of getting the audience to invest themselves emotionally into such a tale that so easily could’ve become a war set classic. It seems as though if you’ve yet to discover Zamperini’s tale for yourself, the source novel on which this is based upon should be your first point of call.
3 token Oscar nominations out of 5