Unbroken Review

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Unbroken is an inspiring true story about one man’s will to survive and never lose hope after being captured as a POW of WWII. Louis Zamerpini’s story is a great one and one that drives hope into all that listen and Angelina Jolie directs his story on film with an unusually boring amount of passion and a strong lack of focus. Unbroken isn’t a disaster by any means, but it’s definitely a lot more flat than one might expect after being told that it’s based on such an incredible true story.

Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) is the definition of hope. An Italian born man that came to America with his family in search of the American Dream, only to be told that he was wasting his life. But his brother steered him in the right direction and with the help and support of his family, Louis went onto compete in the Olympics. He then served in WWII, which is where he got captured and thrown into a POW camp after his plane went down in the ocean.

Most would call it quits and give up at this point, but Louis continued to pull through, not just for himself, but for his fellow captors and for his friends and family back home. Louis would go onto live an enormous life, filled with love and forgiveness, despite his unfortunate events serving in the Army.

Unbroken is his story and it is a heck of a story to be told. Too bad director Angelina Jolie does very little to elevate the material from typical Oscar bait. The film sinks quickly and isn’t even saved by its handful of performances, led by Jack O’Connell and also featuring Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson and Jai “life sucker” Courtney. O’Connell tries his best to recreate the all-American can-do attitude and spirit of Zamperini, but he does so in a manner that falls flat and feels far from authentic.

Hedlund continues padding his career with a performance that mostly consists of him looking down at the ground in disappointment, sometimes chiming in to state the obvious to fellow POW prisoners. Jai Courtney continues to suck the life out of any performance that he touches, even if he touches this one for all of fifteen minutes.

The only real bright light here is Domhnall Gleeson. Gleeson physically transforms himself into someone unrecognizable. He looks and talks unlike before, with the starvation and hopelessness literally draining the life out of his character, presenting us briefly with someone that he hasn’t quite played before. Too bad he’s taken out of the film completely rather quickly.

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The rest of the film is your usual beat-for-beat Oscar nab product that dips into hopelessness and occasionally offers up a motivating quote or moment of strength. The real-life story is full of strength, motivation and the human will to survive, while the film simply mirrors that, but with much less of an effect.

Zamperini is without a doubt a real-life warrior, but Unbroken is a broken mess of a film that isn’t touching new grounds or even trying to make a statement that we haven’t already heard or read before.

Apparently the Coen Brothers helped script the film, which comes as a complete surprise and mystery to most, because there’s not a single trademark of theirs left on the film, which could have really helped to save it from Angelina Jolie‘s dry and characterless hands. I’m sure her intentions were great when picking this project, but she really doesn’t do it justice and it becomes apparent rather quickly after Zamperini and his company crashes into the ocean.

Not an ounce of the film digs deep enough to wrestle out an emotion that isn’t directed simply towards Zamperini’s actual story. The film itself doesn’t earn those emotions though — the story does and that isn’t to credit the writers/director or anyone involved in the film.

Unbroken is shot and cut together in a way that makes it feel like a cast and crew following a clear line set out before them. Jolie and her crew simply read the jarring script and throw it onto film, without giving much thought about exploring some of the deeper elements of Zamperini’s remarkable journey. He’s simply a name with a long list of impressive achievements in Unbroken and never a person or a character worth sinking into and really getting to know and that’s a sad misstep that gives the film a hollow and forgettable feeling.

Unbroken – 6.5/10

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