Directed by Angelina Jolie
Starring Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Miyavi
Unrelenting in its scope and attention to detail, Unbroken is the type of real-life biopic that should be lauded for years after its release. Helmed by a reliable talent, Angelina Jolie, the film suffers from being too focused on its own awards potential instead of on the heart of the story. What's left is a mixture of feel-good fluff and heart-wrenching honesty.
Louis Zamperini is a character full of remarkable facets. The son of Italian immigrants, Zamperini faces a lousy childhood mangled by bullies and adolescent angst. When a hapless moment of peaking under girls' skirts in the stands at a school track race leads to Zamperini racing across the field, the first notch in his career belt is made. Zamperini became an awarded track and field star on the high school field and, eventually, in the Olympics. Medaling in the sport led to a certain level of notoriety. This would come back to bite him during WWII. After a mishap leaves him and two fellow soldiers stranded in life rafts in the middle of the Pacific, Zamperini's natural leadership skills come to fruition. Later, having been rescued and captured by the Japanese, his resilience becomes his legacy.
As Zamperini, Jack O'Connell launches an impressive beginning to a career that is sure to be full of fine performances. He's completely invested in the portrayal, which becomes the film's highlight. As the nasty Bird, the head of the Japanese prison-camp Zamperini finds himself in, Japanese pop star Miyavi matched O'Connell's brilliance. The two become motivated by their own strengths and weaknesses. It's the ultimate cat and mouse game.
Jolie seems a natural behind the camera. The depths of the story are enough for any great lover of epic films. If given a list of things an awards-worthy film should contain, Unbroken would undoubtedly be able to check off most of them. Where the film fails is in allowing itself to become too wrapped up in this idea, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Jolie knows how to tell a good story, a given with a film of this caliber, so the weight of where it sinks is left to how each device works. The acting is magnificent. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is a visual treat. The script seems to be my least favorite piece (which is strange, since it was written by the Coen brothers). Zamperini did live an inspiring life, concluding with one devoted to God and His work. It's really easy to allow spiritual insight to become very saccharine, instead of moving, which is what happens here.
There are great moments of epic filmmaking skill on display and, as an audience member, you will be entertained and enthralled. For being such an incredible story, it's a shame it gets lost at the beginning in too much cheese. If the film were more focused like in the second act, we may have another Schindler's List or Saving Private Ryan on our hands.
Runtime: 137 minutes