Unbroken Movie Review
Unbroken may be about the amazing true story of Olympian Louis Zamperini, who, during WWII, crashed in the Pacific Ocean, spent 47 days floating at sea and then was captured by the Japanese and spent the rest of the war in a prisoner camp, but it unfortunately is also about Hollywood hubris and Oscar bait.
Unbroken is one of those feel-good movies that Hollywood loves to produce, that audiences will generally like and Oscar voters may vote for, if only because it’s a feel-good movie about an incredible person. Oh, and it’s directed by Angelina Jolie, Hollywood royalty.
The war drama is mildly entertaining and easy to watch, thanks to all of the Hollywood conventions used throughout. Whether Jolie is flashing back to Zamperini’s earlier life as an Olympian or showing through exaggerated cheesiness the man’s unbreaking spirit, Unbroken offers plenty of stuff that is hard to hate but equally hard to love. There’s nothing especially terrific about Jolie’s direction, but the use of bright colors and straightforward cinematography makes the film easy to watch, even as it drowns in blandness.
What makes Unbroken so offensive is that there appears to have been no attempt to make it special in any way or form. The acting, led by Jack O’Connell, is uninspiring throughout. The visual effects are unremarkable, an afterthought. The drama is forced and sterilized. The movie fails to engage on an emotional level, putting it leaps behind other, better prisoner-of-war movies ranging from The Bridge of the River Kwai to Rescue Dawn and countless others released in the decades between.
Most heartbreaking is the absurdly dumb climax, which (spoiler) has Zamperini forced to hold a heavy beam above his head at the risk of death. He does so, defying his Japanese captor (played with black-and-white insidiousness by Takamasa Ishihara) to the point that the man breaks down, stunned by his prisoner’s incredible feat. It’s so cheesy, so obnoxiously Hollywood, that even if you aren’t offended by it, you should be.
Unbroken is hard to hate--it’s fast-paced and easy to watch--but Angelina Jolie’s direction coupled with flat acting and an even flatter screenplay make it an instantly forgettable piece of filmmaking. Which is inexcusable, because there is nothing forgettable about Zamperini’s story.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.