Well if you want to celebrate your Christmas with a look at War, Near Death Experiences, and Torture, I think I may have just the movie for ya’.
“Unbroken” is the powerful true story of Louie Zamperini an Olympian and War Hero who survived World War II against some incredible odds. Angelina Jolie steps in to direct this story of perseverance, survival, strength, and overcoming adversity in the darkest of situations. And man did Louie have more than his fair share to overcome
I won’t give away the story points here, even though they seem to be pretty evident in the trailer, but if you’ve ever heard the phrase “out of the frying pan and into the fire”, that basically described Zamperini’s World War II experience, except maybe with an extra trip back into the frying pan. But that’s what makes this story so compelling. I found myself genuinely amazed by this man’s endurance and character, through circumstances that honestly were often difficult to watch even as powerful as they were. Much of this is on the shoulders of actor Jack O’ Connell who offers a convincing take on this extraordinary man. Jolie also shows confidence in her directing, taking this tale and walking us directly into it in a way that honors this man and the themes and meaning in his extraordinary life. Whether it be the acting, the score, the Cohen Brothers script, or whatever. The movie hits its mark just fine. In fact, the word that comes to mind is proficient. You can see that the people making this movie knew what they were doing and the end product is a skilled and competent piece of storytelling. But proficient isn’t the same as transcendent and sometimes with movies you just want a little more.
And that’s where Unbroken falls a bit short for me. As amazing as the story is and as well as it’s told, I just feel like we’ve seen so much of this type of movie before. It’s like catching a good crime procedural on TV. Sure, it can be well done, but we’ve seen so many versions of CSI by this point that we know all those beats by heart. The result is that as remarkable as the story is, there aren’t really a lot of surprises that elevate our interest or even more importantly build the dramatic tension. We know where this is going and the movie doesn’t do much to plant any seeds of doubt that we will be getting exactly the kind of story we expect. So even though the movie is well done, and the story is spectacular, the end product comes off surprisingly boring which makes the 2 hour plus run time feel even longer than it probably should. It’s also not helpful that the more interesting of this man’s trials are in the middle of the movie, meaning the last hour or so almost feels anticlimactic even though it’s pretty powerful stuff on it’s own.
Overall, “Unbroken” is a well made telling of a stunning tale of survival. Angelina Jolie and her crew do a beautiful job of putting it together even if the end result does feel a bit predictable and slow. Despite it’s faults I still think the movie perseveres with a solid B.