Watch my Movie Minute Review of Unbroken:
It’s not often that the most talked-about thing about a film is the director. Well, not every director is Angelina Jolie. Jack O’Connell is the star of Unbroken, playing real-life hero Louis Zamperini, but most critics are focusing on Angie’s work. The film is a massive box-office hit, but critics aren’t a big fan, giving it mixed reviews. I really don’t see why.
Right from the fantastic opening sequence inside a World War II plane, Jolie directs this with extreme finesse and a great eye. She shows us some really unique angles on the action. You can tell she wants to prove she has the goods, and she does. Jolie couldn’t have a better “right hand man” than cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose long list of credits includes The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, A Beautiful Mind, O Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country For Old Men, Doubt and Skyfall. The composition of every shot in Unbroken is beautiful.
While it starts with Zamperini’s time in World War II, it flashes back to his rebellious days as a child before he found focus as a runner, leading to a trip to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The flashbacks end when Louis’ plane crashes in the middle of the ocean, and he lives on a raft with 2 other soldiers for 47 days. Of course, we’ve seen stories like this recently in the Oscar-winning Life Of Pi. The raft stuff feels a little long, but it’s effective. It’s certainly more interesting than Robert Redford’s underwhelming All Is Lost last year.
The good news for Louis is that he’s rescued. The bad news is it’s by the Japanese. He’s taken to a prisoner camp where he’s beaten constantly. Leading the camp is a figure known as “The Bird”, played by Miyavi. It’s a testament to his performance because you’ll absolutely loath his character. Despise him. But wait until his final scene where with one look, he’ll alter your opinion of him. Great work by Miyavi.
The ensemble is stellar. O’Connell is a empathetic leading man who you root for, and he’s aided by great supporting players along his journey including Domhnall Gleeson (About Time) and Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy). The film is full of moving sequences, and it’s a standard Hollywood inspirational biopic. I guess critics were hoping for more surprises? I’m not sure. This is exactly what we should expect in a big-budget, real-life story.
The only fault I can give the film is that it feels a little long, and I found the ending underwhelming. Louis’ journey is so powerful that I was hoping the payoff would have more emotional impact, but this is a great film. Audiences got this one right. Critics didn’t.