Angelina Jolie directs this tale of courage and strength starring Jack O' Connell as Olympic Athlete turned WW2 Bombardier, Louie Zamperini. After a near fatal plane crash, Louie and two other soldiers spend 47 horrifying days on a life raft until they are captured by the Japanese Navy and taken to a POW camp.
Unbroken is Angelina Jolie's second directorial effort and she delivers an uplifting and inspirational WW2 drama. Hollywood newcomer Jack O Connell gives one of the best performances of the year as Louie Zamperini, carrying the movie along with a strong supporting cast including Domhnall Gleeson and Garrett Hedlund.
Unbroken is a very safe and by the books war drama and whilst writing credits are given to the Coen Brothers, there is no sense of outlandishness or risk here. Jolie has directed a very Oscar bait type film and does it well. Roger Deakins shot the film and it looks tremendous, the scenes out in the ocean particularly being standout scenes. I think its safe to assume Unbroken will receive several Oscar Nominations, including Cinematography, Best Director and Best Picture, I personally would throw Jack O'Connell into the mix for Best Actor but that is a very tough category this year.
The film opens above the Pacific Ocean with Louie and his men in their plane on a bombing run. Jolie did an excellent job with the visual effectsm, she and Deakins created a very claustrophobic atmosphere in the planes which did add some suspense to the opening scenes. The film transitions between the past and the present and we see Louie's rebellious childhood and how he came to run in the Olympics. During the flashback scenes, there was a very "Forrest Gump" like feel and you'll know what I mean when you see the film.
After Louie's month and a half stranded at sea he is put to work in a Japanese POW camp, where he meets the sadistic and brutal commanding officer known as "The Bird". Louie and The Bird have a rivalry that sees its way through until the very end of the war. After several scenes of The Bird torturing Louie, it starts to feel like overkill, and Jolie starts to lose sight of the bigger picture.
Of course Louie Zamperini lived to be 97 years old and passed away earlier this year so throughout the film we know that Louie is going to survive. This actually got me more interested in the story, I was so captivated by how he survived all the unimaginably tough situations that he went through. Of course the film does lose some tension in he second half when its following Louie more closely because we know he makes it out of the war alive. But in the first half aboard the planes and the life raft, the tension was high and so were the stakes.
Unbroken is at times very moving, especially at the very end where we see footage of Zamperini running with the Olympic torch at the age of 80. This is a compelling story that is well directed, well acted and beautifully shot and scored.
There is in-fact an unfortunate consistency to the character of Louie which was inspiring yet left little room for character development. No matter what happens to him, he stays valiant and courageous but this is no fault of Jack O'Connell who does indeed give an Oscar worthy performance, he transforms physically as do all the actors to represent the starvation of the characters and puts on a very convincing New York accent considering he is an Irish actor.
Unbroken is a film that covers many things we've seen before and its nothing exceptional but it is a typically well made film with enough excitement and enough drama to keep you invested until the very end.