A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
The ambition demonstrated by Angelina Jolie to follow her war-based debut as a director by telling the harrowing, but incredible true story of Louis Zamperini is commendable.
Of course, when producing your second directorial picture, it helps when you’re Angelina Jolie and have the Coen brothers at hand to write the screenplay; not to mention a measly $65million budget to work with as well.
Unbroken, Jolie’s vision, is the amazing story of resilience, success, survival and desperation in the most nightmarish of circumstances. From the hardships of the running track to the battlefields of war, Louis Zamperini’s story is unique and simply beyond belief.
Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), an Italian immigrant with a cheeky attitude faces adversity with every stride growing up in Torrance, California. After his gift of long-distance pace and endurance is discovered, Zamperini trains and succeeds as an Olympic Athlete in Berlin, 1936.
The film interchanges between Zamperini’s athletic timeline and the present, 1943. A pilot in the United States Air Force, ‘Louie’ and his squadron are forced to crash land in Tanzania, but set off once again on a rescue mission. After the faulty aircraft fails once again, Zamperini and two other crewmen are left damaged and stranded in the middle of the ocean, left to rot and perish.
An unspeakable number of days transpire, and after the men are awoken to a Japanese naval firing squad, the story of Unbroken begins…
Jack O’Connell leads an impressive cast of everywhere-men including Domnhall Gleeson and Jai Courtney. The chemistry between the cast members is both believable and rich in the sense that their unity is the best of a bad situation, for some at least.
O’Connell continues to shine in the spotlight and loves once again that he is able to carry a film on the back of his own performance. Although he may not be the most believable Italian descendent, his transformation and commitment to the role is highly genuine.
Many comparisons spring to mind when watching the hardships and struggles of Zamperini, most notable is 2014’s The Railway Man. Set in another Japanese labor camp during the war, the tale of human spirit, endeavour and strength shine through in a very similar fashion, slightly superior too.
These stores are never easy to watch, but they’re important pieces of history that need to be brought to our attention. Unbroken was made to honour the then-recent passing of Zamperini, who passed away at the incredible age of 97, and it’s admirable achievement for those involved.
Unbroken isn’t the perfect film however. For starters, it runs at least half an hour too long, to the point of restlessness and slight disinterest: an unthinkable reaction to such a subject matter.
The backstory is sound, but the opening act draws out far too long and doesn’t transition into the meat of the story until much later on. The scenes set over the 25+ days at sea felt like real-time and the conclusions stayed past their welcome.
Although there were some additional tonal and structural qualms, Jolie has done a fine job with her second directed feature.
All in all, Unbroken may very well be a forgotten middle-range picture in a couple of years, but it’s certainly not because it was a complete failure.
The film may drag on and shoot itself in the foot along the way, but as far as camerawork, acting and scripting are concerned, Jolie proves she’s willing and able to undertake bold and challenging projects, which is a very rather respectable quality.