Unbroken – Angelina Delivers As Director – Review
I know I sound like a broken record, but I am continually shocked and amazed at the number of harrowing and heartbreaking stories we learn about World War II. Here’s another one that will have you sitting in awe.
Based on the true story, Jack O’Connell stars as Louis Zamperini – a small guy you never want to underestimate. Growing up as the child of Italian immigrants in California, he struggles to find a place in this world, until he starts running. Louis might not be the most athletic guy, but we learn he has a drive and determination that takes him all the way to the Olympics.
After making the team in 1936, he looks forward to 1940, but World War II is getting in the way. The Olympics in Tokyo are cancelled, and Louis finds himself serving as a bombardier in the South Pacific, where his plane is shot down. Left stranded in the ocean with little to no hope for survival, Louis is rescued … by the Japanese, who take him as a prisoner of war.
Director Angelina Jolie knows the exact tone needed to make Unbroken a triumphant, heartwrenching movie that is perfect for the holiday season. It is an old fashioned movie, but in all of the right ways. As written by Joel and Ethan Coen along with Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson (based on the novel by Laura Hillenbrand), Unbroken is an unvarnished look at good versus evil.
O’Connell captures an amazing heroic spirit in Zamperini as the character engages in a battle of wills against his captors, who are brought to life in the form of true life character Mutsushiro Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara), known to many as The Bird, and one of the 40 most wanted Japanese war criminals.
The psychological and physical battle between Zamperini and Watanabe is Unbroken. This is where the audience finds the drama and tension as each person in the audience is moved to tears, anger and triumph by Zamperini’s struggles versus this monster. O’Connell displays a great grit, toughness and spirit, while Ishihara displays evil with coldly calculating efficiency.
I just wish Jolie and the editing team stuck with the original structure. Unbroken starts off with a wonderful pattern of contrasting Zamperini’s life before the war with his life during it via flashbacks. They serve as fantastic contrasts between the various situations, but this tactic is dropped partway through Unbroken, which leads to the film’s pace slowing just enough to notice, and leaving the audience needing to see why Zamperini is willing to struggle and fight to survive.
However, you need to give Jolie and the team credit for the moving images on screen. Seeing the light shining through the bullet holes in a plane or the dirt and grime on prisoners as they march around with hopelessness in their eyes and body language shows you Jolie’s skill as a director and leaves you with images that impact you during and after the movie.
I wish we saw more of Zamperini’s life after the war, but maybe that was being held back for a sequel? OK, probably not.
Unbroken is rated PG-13 for war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language.