Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – Unbroken (Movie Review)

By Freda Cooper 24.12.2014 1

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – Unbroken (Movie Review)

Unbroken (UK Rating: 15)

It may be Christmas this week, but that won't stop the flow of new releases at the cinema. Boxing Day sees the arrival of the latest offerings from directors Tim Burton (Big Eyes) and Ridley Scott (Exodus: Gods and Kings) - and one from somebody usually associated with being on the other side of the camera: Angelina Jolie's Unbroken.

Angelina Jolie's move away from the front of the camera to behind has been long talked about, and Unbroken, based on the true story of Louis Zamperini, is her second film as a director. At the moment she still says she has several acting roles in her before taking up the director's chair on a permanent basis, which rather sounds like she's hedging her bets, yet if Unbroken is anything to go by, she certainly has the knack of attracting big names to work with her.

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – Unbroken (Movie Review)

With the script is by Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, No Country for Old Men), the cinematography by British legend Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption, The Assassination of Jesse James, among many others) and the music by Alexandre Desplat (The King's Speech, Philomena), it is a line-up that looks like a recipe for success - in theory, at least.

Unbroken is the story of American war hero, Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell), a tearaway as a teenager until his elder brother talked him into taking up athletics, a move that took him to the Berlin Olympics in 1936. World War II put a stop to his sporting career and he joined the American Air Force, only to be shot down over the Pacific. After surviving 47 days in an open life raft, he was taken prisoner by the Japanese and sent to a POW camp where he was subjected to the most brutal treatment from one particular guard. Despite everything, his spirit to survive remained intact and, after the end of the war, he worked tirelessly for forgiveness and reconciliation, even returning to Japan in his later years.

It's a remarkable story, full of emotion, physical and mental challenges and, ultimately, hope. As such, it promises much as a film and there are times when it reaches the heights it aims for and that the audience wants so much. Most of them are in the POW camp scenes, resulting from the demonic tortures devised by the guard known by the prisoners as The Bird, real name Mutsushiro Watanabe (Japanese actor/musician Miyavi), specifically for Zamperini. Towards the end of the war, he forces a severely weakened Louis to stand in the sun, holding a wooden sleeper above his head with both hands. The guards are ordered to shoot him if he drops it - so he stands, and stands… and stands.  The other POWs stop working to watch, quietly willing him to keep going and, eventually, having let the sleeper slip slightly, he raises it high above his head and roars defiance. It earns him a savage beating from The Bird, but it's the guard who's spiritually beaten. It's essentially the climax of the film, with religious connotations that look forward to Zamperini's own conversion to Christianity, and it injects a much needed note of raw energy into the film.

It's an energy that comes from Jolie's bold choice for the role of Zamperini, 24-year-old British actor, Jack O'Connell, whose most recent appearances in Starred Up and '71 have marked him out as being especially at home with physically and emotionally demanding roles. He's impressive as Zamperini but he's not a familiar face to American audiences, so whether this is likely to affect the film's success in the US when it opens on Christmas Day remains to be seen. Indeed, none of the cast could be considered 'A' listers - Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund - and they deliver solid performances, although Miyavi's The Bird disappointingly concentrates on the brutality and less on the complexity of the man, which is clearly there for the portraying.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
The powerhouse of talent assembled for Unbroken doesn't appear to have brought its 'A' game to the project, and that includes Jolie herself. The result is an uneven film, which emotionally undersells Zamperini's incredible story and, at times, fails to engage the audience. Labelled as Oscar bait, the film has yet to get into its stride in terms of nominations and is unlikely to make the grade come the Academy Award nominations next month. It's based on an inspirational story, but it's not an inspirational film.

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Funny I heard Angelina Jolie was not able to attend the premier..........check out the link....Smilie  

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