Unbroken (2014)

Unbroken (2014)
  • Time: 137 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama | Sport
  • Director: Angelina Jolie
  • Cast: Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Jai Courtney, Takamasa Ishihara


The life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who joined the armed forces during the second world war. Only to be captured by the Japanese navy after an almost fatal plane crash in the Pacific. After the Japanese have him, they send him to a refugee camp, only to face daring challenges head on.


  • Quickie Review:

    Olympian Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), turned bombardier in WWII survives a plane crash into the ocean. He along with his crewmates are left stranded on a raft for 47 days. Just when all hope is lost Louis enters another hell when he is captured by the Japanese navy and sent to a detention camp. This is the directorial debut of Angelina Jolie, and unfortunately the lack of directing experience does show when it comes to character development and story pacing. This film certainly has moments where it shines. It is well shot and acted, with the first half showing some potential for greatness. However, the second half feels overstretched without the depth of rest of the movie. In the end it’s alright, but it could have been a lot better.

    Full Review:

    Coen brothers written WWII movie based on a true story. Sounds like a safe bet right? Well there is one wildcard here, the director is Angelina Jolie. Considering she has never been behind the camera before I had to expect the chance that the movie would be rough around the edges. Turns out there is slightly more roughness than I had anticipated.

    First off this is a impressive looking movie. The opening shot is of a bombing run over an enemy base while trying to survive the anti-air fire. It’s intense with great cinematography, and you also see a lot of that even during the smaller intimate moments. The sets and look of the movie add to the tangibility of the horrors of being stranded on the ocean or being held and mistreated as a prisoner of war. Additionally, two of the main cast Jack O’Connell and Domhnall Gleeson were great in their roles. Both of them had to carry a significant part of the story, the friendship and comradery they have in the wake of the crash felt genuine. I really enjoyed watching the first half of the movie because it jumped between times before and during the war. So you get to see Louis’ past and how it shaped him to handle the hellish circumstances he has been dealt.

    With such an inspirational story, you would expect to be deeply moved by the film. Instead there are some missteps taken that hinder Unbroken from reaching its potential. I just mentioned how I enjoyed the structure of the first half showing two timelines, it added the much needed emotional weight. However, that structure is completely abandoned once Louis is captured by the Japanese navy. This would have been fine if the detention camp scenes carried the same weight. The problem is that the sense of consequence is completely non-existent for the rest of the movie. For example, there would be a scene where Louis would be beaten senselessly, to the point he can’t stand or loses consciousness, but then next scene is the very next day of him sitting pretty with a nicely combed greased hair and a single scar on his cheek. This happens so often and for so long that I wasn’t as invested in him anymore. What’s the point if he brushes everything off so easily the next scene? He may be a hero in real life, but he is not a superhero. A good villain could have redeemed this part of the movie, but even that was poorly handled. Takamasa Ishihara, who plays the camp’s officer in command comes off as a very shallow and generic villain, being evil just for the sake of it.

    All the right ingredients are there but somewhere along middle the recipe was meddled with. Overall, Unbroken is a watchable film thanks to its cinematography and decent acting. I wouldn’t recommend a full price ticket, but it is worthy of a Netflix stream. Main issue is that too much time and effort is put on the invincibility of the characters rather than their vulnerability. This results in a film that feels somewhat underwhelming and unrelatable at critical moments.

  • This film is recommended.

    In this year of biographies, Unbroken breaks no new ground. It’s a familiar tale of an American hero battling inhumane obstacles that would kill the normal man. In this case, it is the true life story of Louis Zamperini and his horrific days as a prisoner-of-war.

    The film follows the winning formula of most biopics beginning with a troublesome adolescence, traumatic circumstances that lead to international glory, and an inspirational upbeat ending complete with actual photographs of the real person in the end credits. However, the story being told, with a screenplay contributed to four major talents (the Coen brothers, Richard LaGravenese, and William Nicholson), is riveting drama and presented with much style and restraint.

    Solidly at the helm is Angelina Jolie, making an impressive directing debut. The film is a huge undertaking and the actress wisely surrounds herself with an A-team of artisans that deliver superb production values. The gifted Alexandre Desplat gives the film a haunting quality that never overpowers the story. Roger Deakins’ masterful cinematography transports the film to a high level of artistry with his stunning use of stark shadows and silhouettes. Unbroken may be convention storytelling, but it is a beautifully crafted filmgoing experience.

    Most of the time, Jolie tends to play it safe, never straying out of the box. She keeps to the true-and-true formula similar to most WII tales: show the heroism and suffering but stress the inner strength, grit, and that all-inclusive American spirit. She lets her admiration of the man cloud her judgment, showing more saint than needed. This skews the film’s emotion balance of the story and makes it seem forced and manipulative.

    Jolie sets up the story into three distinct sections (using direct links of some classic films serving as her inspiration): the early years leading to Olympic fame (with a Chariots of Fire vibe, slow-motion intact) and the standard war saga, complete with sea survival tale(ala Jaws), and a prisoner-of-war epic story (saluting The Bridge of the River Kwai).

    Jack O’Connell is very good as Mr. Zamperini. He gives a heartfelt performance that spans nearly 20 years. Most of the other roles, except for Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Witlock, are incidental and walking stereotypes. Especially so, is Takamasa  Ishihara as the sadistic prison captain, Watanabe. As written, the role seems far too evil and one-note (although the actual war criminal was even more brutal than depicted here). The actor tries to overcome the cliché with varying success.

    Unbroken is a solid war film that celebrates one man’s remarkable life while elevating him to sainthood, It carries gung-ho patriotism under its sleeve and undercuts reality along the way making the man into a myth and the film into a grand testament of courage and valor. GRADE: B

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  • Angelina Jolie aims to impress with her second stint at directing (the first being the 2011 film In the Land of Blood and Honey), Unbroken, a biographical film about U.S Olympic athlete and WWII veteran Luis Zamperini. Zamperini’s story is certainly epic in scope, but Jolie’s talent behind the camera is yet to be seen.

    Louis “Louie” Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) grew up a rebellious troublemaker. His brother Peter (Alex Russell) saw that Louie had a talent for running and helped to train him as an athlete. Zamperini eventually makes it to the 1939 Olympic games in Berlin, where his success highlights his strong potential. However when war breaks out, Louie becomes a bombardier in the U.S Air Force where his plane is eventually shot down.

    After surviving at sea for months on end with his crew mates, Russell (Domhnall Gleeson) and Mac (Finn Wittrock), they are captured by the Japanese and sent to a prisoner of war camp, where Zamperini encounters a vicious guard, Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe (Miyavi).

    Read the full review and more at http://www.thatothermovieblog.blogspot.com.au

  • A beautifully embalmed biopic, Unbroken charts the extraordinary survival story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, who survived 47 days at sea only to be captured by the Japanese and sent to a detention camp during World War II. Zamperini’s life had enough drama to spawn three separate films; Unbroken is, if nothing else, a highly ambitious undertaking with Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller adapted by an impressive quartet (Joel and Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravanese, and William Nicholson), exquisitely lensed by cinematographer Roger Deakins, and confidently directed by Angelina Jolie.

    The film opens in the heavens with the B-24 “Liberator” bombers flying into view. Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) and his comrades drop their payload on the Japanese bases and soon find themselves engaged in aerial combat. It’s a thrilling sequence – one can feel the weight of the metal, how enemy fire can shred the planes like paper, how the men are both confined and exposed, and how, in the nailbiting scene where Zamperini navigates a narrow catwalk above the wide open bay doors, the merest slip could send you to a watery grave.

    Click here for the complete review

  • Unbroken: I could not have higher hopes coming into this film. After seeing one of the most inspiring trailers I have have ever seen, I was expecting one of the most inspiring movies I have ever seen. Sadly, the film came up short. Some moments are inspirational, but a lot of the times the film just stayed on the surface- played it safe. It never really got to the level I was hoping to see. Yes, I know there is no more inspiring real-life story in the world than this one, but that is not the movie, that is what the real Louis Zamperini did. The movie cannot take credit for it. Unbroken is a film that will leave most satisfied enough but with poor directing and screenwriting, this film is not a worthy enough picture to be made about the life of Louis Zamperini.

    When I asked most people what they love about the movie, most just say “Oh, I thought it was really good, I loved the story.” The story is what makes the movie appealing but that is just what the movie is based upon. Its like saying “I loved the movie because I loved the book.” If they actually thought about it strictly as a film, they will realize that the movie is not half as good as they have it in their mind. Why do I say this? Mainly because in the moments when the audience is suppose to get that feeling of courage and perseverance, I did not. I did not feel inspired. The first time director, Angelina Jolie, did not fully capture the moment in the film and I kind of fell like she just hoped we would feel inspired because of the story and of some patriotic duty. To make it worse she added in these stupid Hollywood scenes that never even really happened. Why would a the head of a prisoner of war camp ask you to hold a really big piece of wood and if you drop it you die? They don’t. That never really happened. Yes, there is a special spot in hell reserved for that man known as “The Bird”, but even he would say it would just seem moronic to do that. It was just a cheap trick that the director tried to use in hopes of making the movie stand out amongst other war films.

    Alright, alright, enough of that stuff. I still did enjoy a few things about Unbroken. The main being the acting. Jack O’Connell, who plays Louis Zamperini, was the only one in the film throughout the whole thing, and he did a great job at what he had laid out in front of him.

    For full review and more, http://reviewsbywest.com/unbroken.html

  • Being a good actor doesn’t necessarily mean you can be a good director too. Not to say it hasn’t worked for people. Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford and Mel Gibson are perhaps prime examples of this. Good actors who became good directors. Ben Affleck and George Clooney are also included in this category but more often than not it’s something that doesn’t work. With Unbroken, Angelina Jolie takes the helm in her second film as director after the critically panned, In the Land of Blood and Honey.

    Unbroken, is based on the true-life story of former Olympic runner Louis Zamperini who spent two-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war during World War II. The film has a cast of mainly young, developing actors with Jack O’ Connell, Domnhall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Jai Courtney and Japanese pop-star Miyavi. Unbroken is a hit and miss and more of a miss than a hit. Unbroken stars off well, giving a look into Zamperini’s childhood and how he became one of the best Olympic athletes in the world as well as keeping World War II story connected, but the film that fails to follow through and be truly compelling.

    The screenplay adapted from Laura Hillenbrand book and written by Richard LaGravense, William Nicholson and the Coen Brothers fails to properly develop Zamperini, the protagonist and towards the latter half the film fades into a story of torture rather than being an engaging war story. Zamprini feels more like a punching bag than a protagonist. The acting is actually very good, Jack O’ Connell gives a very good, emotional performance as Zamperini, Domnhall Gleeson and Garrett Hedlund also do well in their supporting capacity. I personally found Miyavi’s performance quite disappointing as the Japanese corporal Watanabe, the antagonist. He feels miscast and the performance doesn’t really stick. The movie is a perfectly respectable attempt, it’s competently directed, well acted, the cinematography from Roger Deakins is excellent but the film lacks the bite of being an impressive movie.

    All in all, Unbroken is an okay movie that could have been a lot better. Jack O’ Connell is very good as Louis Zamperini and Angelina Jolie does well in her second film as director but ultimately the film fails to materialize into something important.

    Final Score: 6.7/10

    -Khalid Rafi

  • Louie Zamperini is not broken by an impressive range of challenges: vicious rejection as an Italian immigrant by his schoolmates, his lack of confidence, an unconditionally loving mother, a race competitor who tries to trip him, the interruption of his Olympics dream by WW II, a plane crash, 48 days floating in the ocean, the temptation to hog the chocolate ration, the temptation to despair, then torture in a Japanese POW camp, the chance to turn pampered turncoat. Any one of these could have ruined an ordinary mortal but Louie gets through them all. That’s the immigrant American way.
    The film uses a WW II survivor for a model lesson how to deal with current war. A period film is always about the time it’s made, as much as about the time it’s set. Otherwise, why tell THAT story now? It’s not named explicitly here, but the current war and temptation to submit is radical Islam — which means “submission” — and its intention to destroy Western Civilization and all its freedoms. Louie’s repeated lesson — “If you can take it, you can make it.”— seems more heartening against the old Axis than against the new ISIS. As the evil commander knows, torturing a third party breaks the will of those who can take torture themselves. The rampant sacrifice of the innocent is what makes Hamas, Hezbollah and ISIS so savage.
    A postscript adds a second moral. When the war is over forgive your enemies. We’re told the real life Louie went back to Japan to make peace with bis captors — and was only refused by the camp commandant The Bird. Initially The Bird sees in Louie a kindred man of strength — and breaks down trying to break him. So the lesser man’s refusal later to make peace is predictable. We may expect to see the commander’s ceremonial suicide, but instead he skulks off to hide until he’s forgiven in a wider amnesty.
    The film’s most heartening shot is of the real 80-year-old Zamperini running with the torch at the later Tokyo Olympics. All things come to those who survive. Rocky goes to war.
    Director Angelina Jolie shows her chops in the most macho material, especially in the opening air battle, the crash and the drawn out suspense in the close-space raft scenes. But in narrative and thematic terms the film retreats from her masterful, more complex and astonishingly neglected earlier war film, In the Land of Blood and Honey (see my separate blog).For more analyses see http://www.yacowar.blogspot.com.

  • “Unbroken” is a brutal and terrifying story about a man basically getting abused for an extraordinary amount of time. Plane wrecks, stranded at sea for months, being captured by enemy soldiers where he is beaten and abused. It’s scary. I couldn’t manage going through everything that the protagonist went through. I would probably make it a fifth of the time that he made it through and then either lose my mind or just kill myself. He made it all the way through and still remained strong.

    The correct thing done with this movie were the amounts of real emotion that they placed throughout the movie. Not really what they showed, but more what the audience felt. I could not stop thinking about how bad I felt for this guy throughout the entire movie. But at the same time, I simply couldn’t look away. It kept pulling me in and kept making me upset but interested. I was constantly questioning what I would do in his spot. How I would react and behave to some of these situations what he went through. It was like one of those really sad commercials for the animal shelters. You feel so sad but you can’t look away because then you feel like a hypocrite. The sadness and just sheer brutality of this film told the entire story throughout the duration of it.

    There was only one problem with this movie. And that was the fact that I noticed that it was unnecessarily censoring stuff. Which, I guess, makes sense. But I feel like it hurt the experience just SLIGHTLY. It made slightly tough at times to immerse myself in some of the drama that was happening because I wasn’t seeing what was actually happening. Immersion is a big part of the experience for me when it comes to movies, and the censoring made it only a little difficult to do that.

    “Unbroken” is a masterpiece of a drama. It has the perfect ability of not making you think “Oh yeah, this guy is going through crap. I get it at this point.” It constantly keeps you interested and feeling the feels and is definitely worth watching…unless you only like comedy movies…this movie is nowhere near lightly-toned.

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