It appears that the Oscar buzz that ordained Angelina Jolie’s second feature film, Unbroken, was unfounded and premature. For an astonishing true story about American Olympian and war hero Louis Zamperini, Jolie’s well-meaning efforts are competent but without flair or something meaningful to say. The film simply cannot conjure the inspiration, emotion and grandness that a story of this nature truly deserves.
Think last year’s The Railway Man, but without the somewhat effective finale on forgiveness that at least justified the ordeal beforehand.
The opening thirty minutes deserve merit as Jolie effectively weaves Louis’s athletic accomplishments with his initial days as a solider in the second great war. It is hampered slightly by some hammed-up motivation dialogue that you’d expect from a Hallmark card, “If you can take it, you can make it”. Despite this, the section is at least engaging.
Zamperini at one stage was set to become one of America’s great long distance runners. Sadly, his dreams of Olympic gold were literally shot down over the Pacific Ocean, and this is where the film spends the majority of its time. Either lost at sea or showering the audience with endless torture scenes during Zamperini’s time as a Japanese prisoner of war.
Irish actor, Jack O’Connell does a fine job as Jolie’s leading man, although much of his action features him either running, starving or taking a beating.
The film is far too long with far too little to say. We’ve seen prisoner of war films before and there’s only so much the audience can endure without providing something cinematic or philosophical for us to reflect on and take with us. There is no Deer Hunter-eqsue deconstruction of disillusionment or patriotic melancholy to be found here.
Without going into spoilers, Unbroken’s greatest sin is failing to comment on or capture Zamperini’s post-war life. The filmmakers tack on closing credit titles that suggest a radical life transformation after his imprisonment. This was the resolution the audience needed to experience, not a series of repetitive thrashings inflicted on this passive participant.
Even the bold final stance by Zamperini – standing in a sacrificial Christ-like position – lacks the emotional punch it was warranting.
Ultimately, it’s not a bad film. Just a strangely redundant, and dare I say it, boring one.
THE VERDICT: 2.5/5
Genre: War, Drama
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Miyavi, Garrett Hedlund, Finn Wittrock
Directed by: Angelina Jolie
Written by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson
Budget: $65 million
Running time: 95 minutes