Grand and quite powerful in the scale and true to life story but it fails to bring about any overwhelming feel of emotion or connection as it ticks off cliched boxes in an obvious turn to try and suit the Academy Awards board.
This film, the second Angelina Jolie directed feature, sees the dramatic telling of New York born Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), his Italian family upbringing leading to problems but in the end, a big open door for sport and running which makes him become an Olympic distance runner. The film portrays this and his later assignment in World War 2, his trials lost at sea and his shocking trauma as a Japanese POW figure.
Angelina Jolie, undeniably has some behind the camera skill, evident in this movie through sweeping shots of grand war torn scenery, worrying plane-wrecked shots of them stuck in life rafts and it all hits the bio-pic and war trademark with ease but as if trying too hard to fill those quotas. It’s not overly fantastic when a film feels as though it’s really attempting to garner Oscar buzz and in fact it sort of fails because it doesn’t feel effortless, as say ‘Birdman’ does. Jolie captures heart and grit but it pales in the bigger picture feeling small of potential substance.
It is a good film for celebrating the unity of war and comradely passion comes across well, the impact of conflict and spirit marry nicely with human faith and strength, all massive traits of Louis’ character in being unbroken through whatever trial is thrown his way. This feeling hits its biggest whack in the sweet pre-credits with the typical biographical facts and footage of Louis at the age of 80 before a photo of the amazing man rests on the screen. That’s actually one of, if not the best part of the film, the touching real life Louis blazing on the big screen.
Alexandre Desplat utilises on suitable music that feels very stirring and in place for this war time film. It also bubbles away at points and none more so than the trickling of tension in the score as Louis is subjected to holding a beam over his head. The shots are rather great too, skylines and rain drenched jungles provided conflicted images of pre and during war. The coal camp is a bleak and murky affair and serves as a cold and well shot segment of the movie.
Unbroken’s downsides lay in a rather annoying and poor decision to have mainstream music over the credits. Coldplay whine through the speakers as this years U2/Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom film/artist mash up. The CGI of the shark attack is so silly. That’s all, you’ll know if you see it. It also feels odd to have the non linear structure for a while and then drop it for the last hour and forty minutes or so. I liked the back and forth timeline, it shook it up but once it plays out in normal chronological order, it becomes slightly stale and slow. That’s the biggest flaw to be honest, the film feels very long. It’s never great when a film drags and this one does on more than one occasion.
Jack O’Connell is assured and a good leading man, tackling the endeavour of Louis’ life, though I’m not sure he’ll be up for an Oscar nod, possibly a Bafta. He’s charming, gritty, loyal and brave and though the film feels like you’re going through forty seven days and some with him, you do root for his cause all the time. Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock are amazing co-stars and as the three cope or don’t in their ocean stranded predicament you kind of forget the almost ‘Life of Pi’ feeling it has. The best talent in my eyes comes from a professional acting debut and that’s Miyavi who plays the big bad Japanese sergeant Mutsuhiro aka ‘The Bird’. Every look in his eye or underplayed flicker of sadism brings chilling realism to this power hungry man.
You need as much enduring power as Louis Zamperini to sit through this straight forward Oscar try hard film. Inspiring and beautiful at times, yes but it doesn’t get that stirring flavour it so desperately should.