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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Unbroken (2014)


Don’t give up. You can cry a little bit, but that’s it.

Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) was a person who faced all sorts of adversity in his life. As a young kid, he was constantly tattered and teased for being a poor, young immigrant. Then, he grew up a bit and found out that he could run pretty well, which surprisingly took him to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. However, his whole life changes once he enlists in the war and faces even more problems than he could have possibly fathomed. After his faulty-plane gets struck down in the middle of the sea, Zamperini, along with two other of his fellow soldiers, are stranded for months at sea, where they are left to survive by any means possible. And I do mean, by any means possible. But then, as soon as things start looking up for Zamperini and he might be possibly rescued, turns out, is actually the Japanese army. This is when Zamperini is taken hostage in a POW camp and is tortured in every which way possible, by the sergeant who seems to have it out for him the most – an entitled, but incredibly violent guy who goes by the name of “The Bird” (Miyavi). But, through thick and thin, Zamperini relies on his inner, as well as outer, strength to get him through even the toughest times.

"You think I'm pretty, huh?"

“You think I’m pretty, huh?”

Or, you know, something like that. And the reason why I say this is because while Angelina Jolie’s film definitely flirts with the idea of being an inspirational tale of one person’s struggle with staying alive, even through all of the adversity he may have been facing, there’s never any real moment where it becomes such. Though Jolie may dress the film up in all sorts of pretty, impressive ways, the fact remains this: Unbroken isn’t a great movie.

It’s a good one, but man, it could have been so much more.

Though, this definitely isn’t to rag on Jolie as a director, because she seems incredibly confident in staging a scene and bringing the right amount of subtle-drama to it, without ever seeming like she’s trying too hard at all, but her movie as a whole just doesn’t quite go anywhere. Which is definitely a weird complaint, considering that you’d think with Zamperini’s real life story, you’d expect a widely compelling, emotional and life-changing movie-experience, but that sort of doesn’t happen. What happens instead, is that you get a well-told story about a guy who, for the lack of a better word, should have hated everything to do with his life and the way it was dealt to him, but thankfully, didn’t and actually excelled as a human being.

While this may sound interesting being typed-out, the sad reality is that, on film, it doesn’t quite translate to being as such. Some of this has to do with the fact that Jolie’s film is by-the-numbers, but also, another part of that has to do with the fact that it just slogs along for so very long, without any real tension or suspense whatsoever, that when it’s over, it doesn’t seem to last long in the memory-banks. It may have been an important story to Jolie, but to everybody else, it seems like one we could have all lived without, even if there is some interesting aspects brough here to the screen.

For instance, when Zamperini gets taken to the POW camp, he automatically falls prey to whatever sick and twisted mind games the Bird enjoys playing and while it’s hard to watch, it brings a lot of interesting questions to the table. Like, why is the Bird focusing all of his attention on this one prisoner? Is it because Zamperini’s simply just an Olympian? Or, is there something far more bizarre, even perverted going on here? That’s not to say that the Bird is gay, but why does he go about the constant torturing to Zamperini in such a way, that it makes him seem like a jealous ex-girlfriend, who is begging and pleading for any sort of attention he can get? The movie brings up the fact that the Bird comes from a rich family, which would make sense as to why he’s automatically in control of maintaining all of the already weak, beaten-down prisoners, but why exactly is he picking on Zamperini, and solely just him?

The fact that Jolie never fully answers this question makes me feel like there was a far more intriguing film to be made here, but sadly, wasn’t as developed as I would have wished. Though, with the character of the Bird, we get someone who might possibly be humane than we want to believe, however, acts so cruelly and despicable to those he has total control over that it’s easy to list him as “a baddie”, and nothing more. But, Jolie does something neat here in that the Bird is maybe the most interesting character out of the whole bunch here, whether we want to admit it or not.

"Seriously? We're working on our tans here!"

“Seriously? We’re trying to catch some rays here!”

Although, obviously, this doesn’t pan-out too well for Jack O’Connell who plays Zamperini. Because even though O’Connell seems like he’s trying his hardest to make the character of Zamperini relate to us all, there’s a sort of sameness to him that makes him seem so ordinary and simple, that it’s almost as if he never had any other traits to him than just “brave”, “courageous”, or “nice”. Jolie doesn’t paint Zamperini out to be a saint, I’ll give her that, but she doesn’t really paint him as much else either. He’s just another guy, thrown into an incredibly terrible, unfortunate situation; one that he could have definitely caved into right away and died, but thankfully, didn’t.

Once again though, this is mainly me just drawing more and more conclusions about a film that is, quite frankly, as plain as you could get. There’s nothing wrong with being considered “plain” (that is, unless you tell my ex-girlfriend that), but for a movie that wants to be about this eventful life where one overcome all sorts of adversity, to then eventually grow up, get past the past, and move on towards a better future, there is. Not that it’s a bad movie, per se, it’s just one that you can see, be interested in for the time it is on the screen, have it end, and then leave it, without thinking about it much longer afterwards.

Sounds bad, but it isn’t. Just nothing entirely special.

Consensus: Though competently-made, Unbroken suffers from hardly ever being more than just a slightly compelling tale of surviving and excelling in life, even when it seems like everything has been stacked-up against you.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Relax, bro. You've got two more laps.

Relax, bro. You’ve got two more laps.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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3 responses to “Unbroken (2014)

  1. JustMeMike December 26, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    So Jolie’s Unbroken is not Robert Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump crossed with David Lean’s The Bridge Over the River Kwai. It fails to soar and become a movie you’ll never forget like Gump and Kwai.

    Then again those are once-in-a-lifetime films. Maybe we expected too much for this one.

    Then again Jolie is kind of boxed in as bio pics are so difficult to make, ie – The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, and The Lady with Michelle Yeoh as Aung San Suu Kyi. Both were memorable people whose stories did not become memorable films.

    Good review, Dan.

  2. Kristin January 12, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    I do want to see this at some point, but I’ve read multiple reviews that have echoed what you said.

  3. Evan Crean February 15, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    Good review Dan. I totally agree with you that this movie never becomes the inspirational tale it aspires to be, and it’s not a great film. You’re right that it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s done in such a dutiful way that it just doesn’t feel like there’s any excitement to it. I honestly fell asleep toward the end because I wasn’t very engaged. One thing I wish they explored in the film was Zamperini going back to Japan as an old man, learning to forgive the people who tortured him all those years ago.

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