If you've seen any of the advertising for the film Unbroken, you most likely know one of two things. #1-- you know that it is based on the true story of Olympian Louis Zamperini's survival in a World War II prisoner of war camp and #2-- it's directed by Angelina Jolie. The latter fact especially has been made abundantly clear with every trailer, tv spot, article or review. Because of that I feel perfectly justified in discussing both of those factors equally in this review. To get to the point, I'll say upfront that this is a decently good movie that under the care of a more talented director, could have been of the best films of the year.
The second half of the film, is pretty darn good....however it is poorly set up by the first half. For some reason, the actions of all the characters (especially during his Olympic backstory) feel incredibly restrained. I suppose there's a quiet beauty to that....but it also removes much character or memorableness. I never felt any swell of emotions in his journey to being an Olympic runner...and I should have. This was supposed to be one of the things that set the story apart right? If we're to see him draw from that strength of being a champion later in the film, the audience needs to feel it in the beginning. The biggest problem of the film for me was that by the time it got really good and interesting, I didn't really feel invested. There's so much going on in this story, I couldn't help but feel that it's being held back.
The feeling that the movie is missing something is even more abundantly clear once it ends and we get the footnote title cards. So much character development that would light up the screen is simply written out in sentences as an afterthought for the audience to ponder. Look. When a man writes his own story and credits God for getting him through, it feels a little cheap not to even attempt to show a reliance on Him. I get it. That's not the movie Hollywood really wants to make anymore. But when that's his story, I feel you should respect it. This review goes into more depth about this problem of the film's footnotes HERE
Now that I've expressed my disappointment in the aspects that kept the movie from being great, I'll address some of the things it did get right. This may be a small thing, but the casting of the young Zamperini is uncanny and I always find it really effective to be able to tie the young and older versions of a person together so well. The supporting cast is great, but this movie belongs to Jack O'Connell, who gives a capable performance in the lead role. It almost seems like the norm nowadays to transform your body for a role, but I still found it to be chillingly effective. Once Zamperini gets to the POW camp it becomes really compelling stuff. His relationship with his Japanese prison camp commander keeps the film going when it easily could gotten repetitive. There are definitely moments that make you want to cheer and others that make you feel sick to your stomach. I just wish there was more emotion all over the film to balance everything out. Ultimately it's just sad to me that so much of who the man was and became was left off the screen and relegated to a footnote. EMILY RATING: 7.5 EDIT: I can't believe I failed to mention how amateur the editing was in this film! Beautiful cinematography, but 25 too many dissolves! My pal Kent talks more about that in his review HERE