Director: Angelina Jolie
Cast: Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Jai Courtney and Garret Hedlund
Running Time: 137 minutes
Release Date: December 26th
Sometimes you don’t have to try very hard for your film to be any good. Given the life story of Louis Zamperini – Olympic record-breaker, sent off into World War II, crash-landing and surviving in the Pacific Ocean for months, then becoming a POW in Japan for years – even Uwe Boll might’ve scored a home run with this movie. Angelina Jolie, after nobody went to see In The Land Of Blood And Honey, is clearly using this as her calling card; “Look at me Hollywood, time to take me seriously!”
Surrounding herself with the crisp, clean cinematography of Roger Deakins, the meticulous composition work of Alexandre Desplat, a screenplay supplied by The Coen Brothers based on a biography that remained a bestseller for over four years and an end credits song by Coldplay, Jolie is aiming high. Oscars high. Also on board are some of the best and brightest young actors working today, with Jack O’Connell continuing his ascent to stardom in the lead role, while supporting characters get ably played by the likes of Domhnaill Gleeson, Jai Courtney and Garrett Hedlund.
The thing is, nobody here seemed to really bring their A-game, all having provided much better work elsewhere, but surrounded by all this talent, it feels like Jolie didn’t really need to try. Despite spending so much time with him, Jolie never really gets under the skin of Zamperini, preferring to idolize him instead of making him human. Early scenes show him as a young upstart, but from then on he’s portrayed as almost saintly, showing a superhuman level for pain endurance and against-all-hope optimism, but nothing more than that. We find out what he did, but not who he is. Ditto for the late arrival antagonist, the POW camp supervisor played by Asian pop-star Mayavi. Yes, he’s super evil and masochistic, but why? Because the film needed a bad guy, and because the script said so.
Not to belittle Zamperini’s accomplishments, or Jolie’s attempts to show us those accomplishments in that most cinematic way possible – something several other big name directors tried and failed to do – but Unbroken just doesn’t try hard enough. A perfectly passable, solid yet unspectacular biopic, and considering the absolutely spectacular nature of Zamperini’s true life story, he deserves better than that.