Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Unbroken: Inspiring Story, Boring Film? **

Angelina's Jolie's second feature film, the highly anticipated Unbroken, tells the amazing true story of Louis Zamperini.  He survived starvation while being lost at sea for 47 days and then faced sadistic prison guards as a POW in Japan during the Second World War. Before Zamperini joined the Army Air Corps he participated in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin as a member of the U.S. track team.  While there are some excellent sequences, especially the opening 15 minutes, the film just drags on way too long without any emotional payoff.

Maybe a documentary would've better suited Zamperini's story? We never learn much about his life before the war, except for a few flashbacks. There's hardly any humor or memorable supporting characters.  The Japanese prison warden known as "the bird" has no humanity whatsoever. Jack O'Donnell gives an exceptional performance, but not enough to carry the entire film.  

Many classic WWII movies set in POW camps such as The Great Escape and Bridge on the River Kwai celebrated camaraderie and at least had interesting characters and themes. Even George Clooney's Monuments Men earlier this year, which illustrated why Fascism had to be defeated, wisely took a cue from those films. By limiting itself to a survival story, Unbroken puts the audience through an ordeal, instead of an enriching experience.  I've not read the Laura Hildenbrand bestseller the film was based on, but I sense the emotional impact the film lacked might be found in the book.

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