|Jack O'Connell as Louis Zamperini in Unbroken|
The film moves back and forwards in time, opening with a bombing raid in the Pacific, where the plane of Zamperini (Jack O'Connell) is attacked by Japanese fighters, before having to make an emergency landing. The film then shows Zamperini's childhood in flashback where, as the son of Italian immigrants, he is bullied by the other local boys and becomes a trouble-making tearaway. Eventually, with the encouragement of his brother, he reluctantly takes up running after discovering he has a talent for it, with his being taunted as a “dumb dago” spurring him on to succeed on the running track. Zamperini goes on to compete in the 5,000 metres at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Unbroken is based on the book of the same name by Laura Hillenbrand. The film attracted additional attention because it was the second (after the relatively obscure In the Land of Blood and Honey) to be directed by Angelina Jolie. It's commendable in a way that Jolie wanted to tell this story. She clearly intended to make an uplifting film about the triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity. But the treatment is clichéd, even hackneyed, particularly in its earlier scenes of Zamperini's childhood and development into a top athlete.
The film has a surprisingly distinguished set of four screenwriters, Joel and Ethan Cohen, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson, and with such impeccable credentials you would expect the script to be a lot better than it is. But it trades in clichéd, would-be inspirational dialogue like ”You can do this...you just gotta believe you can” and, in an early piece of foreshadowing, “A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.” It's not clear which one of the film's four writers was responsible for that gem, but it sounds decidedly arse about face. Presumably he means that a lifetime of glory is worth a moment of pain.
|Jack O'Connell (centre) and Miyavi (far right)|
|B-24 Liberators of the CGI air force|
Unbroken received a very mixed reception from the critics, perhaps because it arrived with awards hype that it could never hope to justify. It's a generally competent but mediocre effort, and you can't help feeling that Zamperini's life story deserved a better treatment than this.
A follow up, Unbroken: Path to Redemption, with a mostly different cast and crew, was released in 2018.
Genre: Biopic, War, Drama
Director: Angelina Jolie
Cast Jack O'Connell (Louis Zamperini), Domhnall Gleeson (Russell Allen Phillips, ‘Phil’), Miyavi (Cpl Mutsuhiro Watanabe, ‘The Bird’), Garrett Hedlund (Commander John Fitzgerald), Finn Wittrock (Mac), Jai Courtney (Cup), John Magaro (Frank Tinker), Luke Treadaway (Miller), Alex Russell (older Pete), John D'leo (young Pete), Vincenzo Amato (Anthony), Ross Anderson (Blackie), Maddalena Ischiale (Louise), Louis McIntosh (Harris), Jordan Patrick Smith (Clift), Spencer Lofranco (Harry Brooks), Stephen J. Douglas (Clarence Douglas), Marcus Vanco (Lambert)
Screenplay Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand Producers Angelina Jolie, Clayton Townsend, Matthew Baer, Erwin Stoff Cinematography Roger Deakins Production designer Jon Hutman Editors Tim Squyres, William Goldenberg Music Alexandre Desplat Costume designer Louise Frogley
Running time 137 mins Colour
Production company Jolie Pas, 3 Arts, Legendary Pictures Distributor Universal