Unbroken Movie Review
Survival. Resilience. Redemption. UNBROKEN pummels the meaning of these words into our psyche, throwing one punch after another at our lead character without a moment to breathe in an exhilarating story of one man’s endurance to live.
Based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand about the inspiring true story of former American Olympic track medalist Louis ‘Louie’ Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), UNBROKEN follows Louie through his harrowing adversity during World War II. Born to Italian immigrants, Louie was a bit of a troublemaker as a kid until his older brother helped focus his energy into track. We see glimpses of his past leading toward his Olympic destiny through flashbacks while flying with Louie and his unit in 1943 on a B-24 Bomber plane during WWII. After their plane is shot down, Louie is one of three survivors adrift on a raft in the shark infested Pacific Ocean. While drifting for 47 days at sea is a terrifying and traumatic nightmare, Louie’s most difficult time comes as a prisoner of war, tortured and tormented through a handful of brutal Japanese prison camps where his punishment is relentless.
Joel and Ethan Coen (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN), Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson (GLADIATOR) all had a hand in the screenplay that consists mostly of moving Louie from one death-defying experience to the next, but the details of these horrific events bring together an emotional and inspirational movie-watching experience. In her second directing effort, Angelina Jolie (IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY) brings a more polished look and an apparent passion for the material. At times, UNBROKEN may feel too clean, playing up the theatrical moments and creating an overkill on some of the grander visual details, but the grounded performance from relatively unknown Jack O’Connell as Louie, keeps the viewer’s focus on the character and his impossible situation.
All the performances of the supporting characters are very strong and an important piece of the puzzle through Louis’ journey. Each difficult event is aided by a friend or family member to help motivate and push Louie to never give up. Louie’s brother Pete, played by Alex Russell (CHRONICLE), pilot ‘Phil’ Phillips played by Domhnall Gleeson (ABOUT TIME) and commander Fitzgerald played by Garrett Hedlund (INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS) all do amazing work as characters who help and are helped by Louie. But O’Connell is the true star as the humble hero, who is unaware of the impact he has on others by simply being a constant strength.
The gradual progression of the film allows the audience to grow with the character. Relieving the tension-filled moments with sweet compassion or humor, UNBROKEN effectively moves the story so the burdens never become overwhelming. These moments obviously become less and less but it cleverly prepares the audience to progress through the hardships of the film and feel the sad impact of supporting characters when they are taken away no matter how little their screen time.
The cinematography is quite breathtaking, giving an almost surreal look to the picture with how crisp each image appears. The stunning visuals coupled with the magnetic score, has an interesting effect that under different circumstances might be considered over produced, but the film earns these moments with a deeply moving and gratifying story of survival, resilience and redemption.