Starring: Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Miyavi
Director: Angelina Jolie
Running Time: 137 mins
Unbroken is an American film about the true story of Olympic athlete Louie Zamperini, who found himself captured and sent to a Japanese prisoner of war camp after his plane crashed at sea at the height of The Second World War.
This is a really interesting, surprisingly entertaining and very good-looking film. It’s got a lot of excitement throughout, coupled with a lot of violence, whilst it’s well-paced and entertaining to follow along, all made more enjoyable by the beautiful cinematography. However, what prevents this from being a great war film is that it lacks in showing the really brutal psychological effects of POW camps, as well as a serious lack of good character development throughout.
Let’s start with what the whole story is about, this man Louie Zamperini. The guy is really interesting, and his story is absolutely fascinating, but there is quite a big problem with how he’s portrayed on screen. Now, I’ve not been much of a fan of Jack O’Connell up until now, but this performance is really exciting and powerful, whilst he also makes Zamperini a very likeable and supportable main character, however the main issue with that character lies within the screenplay.
Basically, you know everything that you’re going to know about Louie Zamperini within the first 20 minutes of this film. He’s determined, strong-willed and athletic, which is perfectly fine to know about, but the fact that you don’t really see him learn anything as the story goes on is quite boring and frustrating. Despite the serious physical abuse he suffers in the POW camp, the fact that he always remains ‘unbroken’, and never learns to just back down is just a little preposterous. Of course, it’s a real story, but the way this aspect is presented in the film, I felt, is a little over-the-top.
The story itself is split into three parts, covering four bits of Zamperini’s story. Firstly, you’ve got a mix between his service in the US Air Force in the Pacific (which is an absolutely epic opening) and his background, followed by a lengthy, but still intriguing and surprisingly fast-paced period where he is stranded in the middle of the ocean.
However, the latter, main bulk of this film is Zamperini’s time in the POW camp in Japan. This is both very good and not so good for a couple of reasons. Luckily, this film doesn’t hold back in showing the extreme physical violence of the camp, and it really is heavy-going and pretty tough to watch, which was probably the most exciting part of the whole film for me.
On the other hand, although it shows the physical brutality to a significant extent, there’s pretty much nothing that fully shows the deeper, psychological effects of Zamperini’s time in the camp, apart from one scene where he shouts a bit. The issue with that is that it reinforces the almost preposterous aspect of him always being ‘unbroken’, which took me out of the moment somewhat.
Finally, one of the most pleasing things about this film is the cinematography, which is beautiful. Normally, these sort of POW camp films can look a little dull, seeing as it’s usually just one setting, but this film creates a really vibrant, colourful and striking image on screen wherever it is, and that really helps to make it more appealing and entertaining to watch.
Overall, this gets a 7.6, because despite being a little short on character development and demonstrating the psychological effects of war and POW camps, this is still an intriguing and very entertaining film.