Christmas week was the week of diverse releases. We had the cute and quirky musical Into the Woods, we had the gross out comedy The Interview, and now we have the epic tale of an Olympic Athlete and former POW, Louis Zamperini, in Unbroken.
Unbroken follows the life of Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), who was taken captive by the Japanese Navy after surviving on a raft at sea for 47 days, following a near fatal plane crash. The former Olympic athlete is sent to a POW camp along with two other airmen. This is an epic story, based on the hugely popular book of the same name, which follows Zamperini from his childhood, all the way to his return from captivity.
I rarely accuse a movie of this, as the case is often the opposite, but this is a movie that tries way too hard. It doesn’t rest on its laurels, i.e. Zamperini’s life story. Instead, it focuses on becoming a story of redemption and triumph over adversity. That’s where the problems come in.
The fact is, this is already a story of redemption and survival. The subject of the film lived a full 97 years and came back alive from the war. That’s why a few scenes (some of which had to be made up) come in over the top. For example, one of the film’s most iconic moments, where the emaciated and fragile star lifts a heavy beam over his head while music swells in the background, is almost worthy of an eye roll.
For a movie with so much content, it’s surprisingly sluggish. A large part of the movie is made up of the time spent on the raft. I hate to say it, but while the idea that these guys survived on a raft so long is interesting, watching them float in the water for what feels like the entire 47 days eventually wears thin. The time at the POW camp is spent mainly over the star’s trials with a seemingly one dimensionally evil guard, while ignoring the suffering and the Zamperini’s own inner thought process.
One thing that makes the movie fail is the heavy reliance on flashbacks. It starts out at full momentum, with the clear intention of focusing on the life raft and time in the POW camp. But then flashback after flashback drags us out of the story and into Zamperini’s troubled childhood. While interesting, I feel like it would have been more interesting if told in a linear manner, rather than as an interruption.
Jolie proves herself to be a competent director, though probably not the best editor. In a 2 hour and 15 minutes run time, this movie drags in a lot of places, though those places are usually the flashback scenes. For the most part, her style of direction really does draw you into the picture. While it’s not genius, it is competent.
It’s a well made movie, based on an interesting story, but the over the top symbolism and focus on the star’s quiet strength rings false on more than one occasion. Adding in the flashbacks, this one is actually an exhausting movie to watch. At two hours, you’ll find yourself yawning even as the bullets fly.
Unbroken could have been broken up a bit, with a bit more linear storytelling and allowing the movie to rest on its own subject matter. While it’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen, I do have to give it an A for effort.
WE GAVE IT : 3 STARS! Watch the Official Trailer and See the Official Movie Poster below