Unbroken tells the true story of Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) a young American who turned away from his troubled teenage years to become an Olympic athlete. He put his career on hold though to fight for America during World War II. While he found that the other American soldiers treated him like somewhat of a celebrity things turned very nasty after a plane he was flying in crashed into the ocean.
Louis survived the crash alongside his good friends Phil (Domhnall Gleeson) and Mac (Finn Wittrock) but after surviving at sea for a month in a life-raft finds himself even more in danger after he has taken as a P.O.W. by the Japanese Army and his status as an Olympic athlete means that he is bullied even more by the brutal Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara) who seems determined to break his spirit.
Actors or actresses becoming directors isn’t a new thing. For people such as Clint Eastwood and Ron Howard juggling the two professions have led them to becoming known for their work behind the camera just as much as much for their work in front of it. Now Angelina Jolie has joined the list of actresses wanting to chance their hand at directing, and while many are skeptical of her claims that she will never act again, there is still plenty of promise shown in her first directional feature, Unbroken.
Visually Unbroken is a spectacular film, Jolie and her cinematographer Roger Deakins do an amazing job at bringing beauty to some of the most harsh scenes depicted throughout the film. It is easy to see that Jolie has a real knack for directing but Unbroken is prevented from becoming a great film by the fact that the entire time you are watching the film parts of it remind you of films that you have seen previously. For example the scenes were Louis, Phil and Mac are stranded at sea are not poorly written or directed, in fact they hold your interest the entire time, but sadly while watching them the audience will find themselves thinking ‘I’ve seen this all before in Life Of Pi.’
Where the power of Unbroken really lays though is through the fact that this is a film that screams at its audience to ‘never give up.’ Often these kinds of films become a really tiresome watch and it can feel like the director and filmmaking team are really bashing their message over the heads of their audience. That isn’t the case here. Yes Jolie and her scriptwriting team, which consists of The Coen brothers, repeatedly broadcast their message but it never gets to a point of being over the top. In fact along the way they actually end of creating a truly memorable piece of cinema with the scene of Louis holding the piece of wood over his head under the threat of death. It is a scene that will stick in the minds of anybody watching the film for a long time to come.
What most people will leave the cinema after Unbroken thinking though will be the arrival of Jack O’Connell as an actor. The young star who cut his mustard in the hit television series really comes to the fore here with a powerful, emotional and memorable portrayal of a man that everybody needs to learn the story of. O’Connell himself looks like he has gone through hell at times to play this role and the strength of his acting really shows in a lot of the really dramatic scenes that he shares with Takamasa Ishihara who also puts in a good performance even though his role is restricted to pretty much being the token ‘bad guy.’ Fans of actors such as Jai Courtney, Luke Treadaway and Garrett Hedlund should also be warned that their roles are extremely restricted as well.
As a film Unbroken doesn’t turn over a lot of new ground. Yes the story of Louis Zamperini will be new for many audience members and it is certainly a story that the world should be told about, but there is a familiar feeling with far too many scenes throughout the film itself. Jolie does more than enough to show that she has all the right talents to become a director that will bring worthy and beautiful looking films to her audience, although most film lovers will be expecting a lot more from a script that had input from The Coen Brothers.
Still Unbroken is a powerful film, just don’t expect to get the same feeling from this film as you would from a film like Flags Of Our Fathers or Schindler’s List.
Director: Angelina Jolie
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Takamasa Ishihara, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Finn Wittrock, Jai Courtney, Luke Treadaway
Running Time: 127 minutes
Date of Release: 26th December, 2014