Written by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (Screenplay)
Directed by: Angelina Jolie
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Takamasa Ishihara, Domhnall Gleeson
Story: The true story of Louis Zamperini, a US Olympic Athlete who was detained in a Japanese POW Camp in WWII.
There has been much ado about ‘Unbroken’, and for various irrelevant reasons. First there was a hurrah about the fact that the film was directed by Angelina Jolie (so of course the paparazzi were all over the Australian set as soon as shooting began). Secondly, there were the various award ‘snubs’ that the film received, despite being made by a Hollywood darling. Third, Jolie was branded as a ‘racist’ and it was declared by many infuriated Japanese natives that she would not be welcome in their country because of the depiction of the Japanese in the film.
All of this fuss really does have to be left at the door when you decide to watch ‘Unbroken’. What we have to do, as with any film, is leave the fluff at the door and take the movie at face value. And, at face value, ‘Unbroken’ is a decent film.
The script itself is well paces, and divides itself really nicely between Zamperini’s early life, his life in the war and after the plane wreck, and then his life in the POW camp. These are not three distinct parts of the film but all mould together as one rather seamlessly. What we have to note is that the story that ‘Unbroken’ proclaims to tell is that of Zamperini’s life throughout the war. Of course, his life afterward is incredibly rich and meaningful, and this is undeniably glazed over. It would of been nice to see a lot more of that, but the film itself does tend to start to drag at around the 1hr40 mark so any additional time really would of been felt by the audience. Perhaps later down the track someone will decide to expand on this further, and that will truly be welcome.
Jack O’Connell does well to portray Zamperini, and his emotional scenes are performed to a good standard. The real issue here is that these emotional scenes are so few are far between. The real beauty of Louis Zamperini was his constitution: his belief that dealing with short term pain will eventually lead to long term gain. This belief and his ability to empathise and understand others is what kept him alive throughout the story (and for the many years after the war), yet this remains undiscovered. It is hard to know, with a performance like this, whether the shallowness comes from the script or the actor.
Technically, ‘Unbroken’ is beautiful. The cinematography is exceptionally put together and creates the feeling of a war epic. The sound mixing is a nice compliment which makes the film itself a pleasure to witness.
The ending of the film is neat, but as previously mentioned it does leave much unexplored. Perhaps it would of been more powerful for the Coen brothers to cut some of the start of the film and study Zamperini’s life post-war. Perhaps this is another deep area of exploration which should be put aside for another instalment. Either way, it does take something from the film: we invest in our lead character and do not see much of his emotional redemption.
All in all, ‘Unbroken’ is a movie worth seeing. It is not a movie worth investing in, or studying, but it does make for an enjoyable afternoon.