Entertainment & Humor MIDDLE AGE MUSINGS  >  Resilience Movie Review – “Unbroken”

Resilience Movie Review – “Unbroken”

Resilience Movie Review – “Unbroken”
Print pagePDF pageEmail page

By Alison Bailes

What might be the most amazing thing about Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken” is that the story has taken this long to reach the big screen. Universal acquired the rights to World War II veteran Louis Zamperini’s life in the 1950s and various stars including Tony Curtis were tipped to star. But even the most promising projects can linger, with a revolving door of screenwriters and directors being linked to the production and then leaving.

So it’s a major achievement that we can finally get to know “Louie” Zamperini and his remarkable life. Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s book “Unbroken: A World War II story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption” by a roster of screenwriters (including Joel and Ethan Coen), director Jolie (“In the land of Blood and Honey”) makes an honorable stab at injecting cinematic passion into this real-life drama. But as extraordinary as Zamperini’s life was, the film only manages to relate the facts without summoning up the requisite emotional connection.

That is not to diminish Jack O’Connell’s performance. This young British actor (“Starred Up”) plays Zamperini with commitment and intelligence. But Jolie’s earnest yet unimaginative approach means that his life unfolds with all the expected beats of a prestige biographical picture without the necessary heart.

Zamperini was a track star from Torrance, CA who ran in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He then served as a bombardier in the war until his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean killing all but three men on board. Surviving 47 days at sea, Zamperini and one other survivor are captured by the Japanese and sent to POW camps where they endure abuse and torture.

Flashing back from the scenes of Louie in combat, Jolie treats us to An Important Childhood Moment when Louie’s brother instills a sense of fight in his young, talented sibling.  “If you can take it, you can make it”, says the brother in a “Chariots of Fire”-type scene. Jolie might as well have flashed the maxim on the screen so that later in the film, when Louie faces adversity in the shape of a sadistic prison guard, we would remember the inspiring words.

Jolie certainly knows how to film a pretty shot, although that praise might well be due to esteemed cinematographer Roger Deakins whose frames are stunning. Sometimes I had the feeling that Jolie prefers the order and visual impact of grandiose wide shots instead of the emotional intensity of close-ups. And a scene where Louie is forced to hold a large piece of timber over his head is heavy-handed in its religious implications.

It is impossible not to admire the resilience portrayed on screen and a post-script (with photos of the real Zamperini) brought tears to my eyes. We learn that Zamperini forgave his tormentors and tried to reconcile with them. He carried the torch in the 1998 Olympic Ceremony in Nagano, Japan. But Jolie’s film, even at 2 hours and 17 minutes seems to give short shrift to Louis Zamperini.  In trying to portray the historical scope of this epic story, Jolie has lost sight of the man himself.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...