Unbroken (2014)

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Hit me!” shouted Louis Zamperini.

As an actress, Angelina Jolie is known for her bold, bad-ass roles with real grit and action; however, she takes a completely different approach in her directional style. Jolie now shows a penchant of making war movies that gone visceral beyond the war itself. In her directional debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011), she constructs a too emotional romance in the midst of Bosnian war—that goes too slow; her second feature, Unbroken is a biopic that brings forward a survival story as a highlight on the shades of late World War II. The same as Jolie’s directional debut, Unbroken is visceral, emotional, but troubled.

The subject of this biopic is Louis Zamperini (portrayed by Jack O’Connell), a former Olympics athlete who eventually joined the US army during WWII. He survived a near-fatal plane crash in the Pacific, survived 47 days of horror on a raft with two other comrades—through the days of shark and pestilence, then survived a torture of being POW under the command of ruthless Japanese commander called The Bird (Miyavi). Jolie’s motivation is crystal clear: showing that Zamperini is unbroken—no matter how dire the testify is.

Basically, the adapted Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand attempts to add more layers by highlighting some religious moment to lighten up the narrative. By doing accordingly, every testify suffered by Zamperini will look like the work of miracle—if only, the film follows the same rule, the direction must be much more obvious. Unfortunately, the filmmakers strip off this ‘religious’ part and try to make it more humane—yet, the result is nothing but some dry portrayal of a great man with an ability to forgive.

Unfortunately, the film is stuck there in portraying how unbroken Zamperini is. Although O’Connell continued his illuminate performance along 2014 and Roger Deakins’ mesmerizing cinematography keep Unbroken visually meaningful, the filmmakers fail to convince the audience what’s the main point of the film. Though The Coen Brothers also worked with the screenplay, it’s never been their typical story; there’s no notable visions seen from the script. There’s barely anything on-screen, Jolie likes it stay idle and, more of it, she likes it repetitive and predictable. It’s being visually beautiful but greedy as well—trying to uplift Zamperini, the main subject of this too prestige biopic, as a demigod being in the world of Unbroken.

In the end, what’s highlighted in this film is: experience in filmmaking doesn’t always make a good movie. Even Jolie, Coen Brothers, Deakins, and all the young stars without clear vision cannot save Unbroken from being a wearisome biopic with a story that could have been a stronger story.

VERDICT: Although directed by Angelina Jolie, written by The Coen Brothers, fueled with the finest cinematographer along with the best young stars, Unbroken falls shortly.

Unbroken (2014)

Biopic, Drama Directed by: Angelina Jolie Written by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravanese, William Nicholson based on a novel by Laura Hillenbrand Starred by: Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Miyavi Running Time: 137 mins Rated PG-13 for war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language


4 responses

  1. Hey Paskalis, it’s Devi. I always saw your posts float around my Tumblr so I decided to drop by.
    And uh about Unbroken, I haven’t watched it yet but your review helps me to catch a glimpse of the film.
    Nice review! Looking forward to the next one.

    1. Hi, Devi! Glad that you drop by 🙂 Thanks for that. Well, see you on other comments yaaa

  2. The reason I haven’t seen this is because they skipped the *religious* part, as in Zamperini’s Christian faith later in life that gave him the inner strength to forgive his captors. To me, that emotional transformation is as miraculous as him surviving all those physical ordeal. Hollywood always likes to strip down the God aspect of the story (as they did w/ Noah, Exodus), much to the detriment of the film itself.

    1. True!!! It was the core of the book by Laura Hillenbrand, but as you said ‘Hollywood always like to strip down” that aspect.

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