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Unbroken: Polished WWII Survival Story

  • Domhnall GleesonFinn Wittrock...
  • Action & AdventureDrama
  • Angelina Jolie
reviewed by
Marija Loncarevic
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Unbroken: Polished WWII Survival Story

It usually comes down to the following; it’s not what you say, it is how you say it. Unbroken, Angelina Jolie’s second directorial effort –based on Laura Hillenbrand’s biography titled, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption –unfortunately, doesn’t have the ‘hows’ figured out. As a result, this rather remarkable WWII story of human suffering and endurance is turned into something generic we’ve all seen a thousand times before.

Unbroken is centered on the life of one Louis Zamperini (O’Connell); a cocky and trouble-loving Italian immigrant who – as a child growing up in California during the 1920s – was subjected to a great deal of discrimination and bullying. However, after adopting and embracing his older brother’s mantra, “If you can take it, you can make it”, Louis manages to find the strength he needs to push aside the negatives and grow up into a relatively confident young man.

It’s not long before Louis discovers his passion for track racing and after an impressive record final lap in the 1936 Olympic Games, Louis soon finds himself on top of the world. However, his potential and glory days are quickly pushed aside with the outbreak of WWII and with no other choice, Louis joins the Air Force and quickly develops a close friendship with fellow pilots, Phil (Gleeson) and Hugh (Courtney).

Soon, tragedy strikes when their plane is shot down somewhere over the Pacific Ocean; after surviving the impact and enduring the grueling forty-seven days out at sea, Louis’ spirit is soon put to the test when he is rescued by no other than the Japanese before eventually, landing in a remote detention camp where more agony and suffering awaits.

With the creative input from Hollywood heavy-weights such as the Coen brothers, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson, Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken feels surprisingly mundane. Starting off with a series of non-linear sequences, attempting to highlight segments of Zamperini’s life, the director tries – perhaps a little too hard – to find meaning and depth to the story that unfortunately, refuses to let go of the banalities and lift itself off the ground.  Desperate to please, Unbroken takes advantage of every single opportunity to pull at your heartstrings while its ridiculously rendered visuals – a mixture of dusty and golden hues – makes the entire experience a little too polished; a bit more grit to the proceedings would have gone a long way.

Luckily, the story does benefit from O’Connell’s intensity and obvious commitment to the role and the rising star – previously seen in Yann Demange’s British action-thriller ’71 – manages to keep the audiences engaged throughout. It is just very unfortunate that this man’s remarkable journey is not fully embraced – most compelling and screen-worthy parts of his life seem to be left out – and that his acts of heroism – although worthy of praise and attention – are seemingly lessened by a flimsy script that obviously favors style over substance. 

Like This? Try

In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011), The Great Raid (2005), 42 (2013)

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Louis Zamperini passed away on July 2, 2014. He was able to watch a rough cut of the film on Angelina Jolie's laptop while in the hospital before he passed.

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