“Unbroken” is incredibly well made and brutal to a fault. Darn the imperfections, Angelina Jolie’s film has heart.
Angelina Jolie is finally growing her director roots by delivering an intense and dramatic real life film of the late Louis “Louie” Zamperini. This Olympic runner-turned-prisoner is a powerful true story that everyone should see and hear.
Putting passion in every frame throughout the film, Jolie molds the plot around Zamperini’s brutality and solitude he faced as a WWII Prisoner of War (POW).
Sadly, Zamperini passed away last July from pneumonia, at 97. However, Jolie did get the chance to show him a rough cut of his life on film from her laptop. Scriptwriters (The Coen brothers, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson) adapt Lauren Hillenbrand’s 2010 bestseller of Louie’s heroic journey to the big screen.
Louie is the son of Italian immigrants, raised in Torrance, Calif. Set out to be a misfit in society, Louie is destined for jail. That is, until his older brother, Pete, focuses on his younger brother’s strengths … running.
He ends up turning into an all-American track star and competes in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. During the second war, Louie enlists in the Army Air Corps.
But life spirals out of control when his B-24 goes down in the Pacific. Louie and his surviving crew are abandoned at sea on rafts for 47 excruciating days.
Life gets even worse for Louie and his crew when their raft comes upon a Japanese ship. From there, Louie’s humanity is stripped away little by little. He was captured, starved and tortured for two years in the Japanese POW camps. The remainder of the film focuses on the brutality as a POW.
The book goes on to talk about Louie’s life after the war as well. From PTSD to alcoholism to his conversion to Christianity, Zamperini’s life is inspirational. However, Jolie decided to cut that part of the book to focus more on the courage and bravery Louie had as a POW.
This was a big part that I wished Jolie could have shown in the film, but I understood the choice she made for the film’s purpose. If anything, after seeing this film it encourages you to go out and research more about Zamperini’s life and read Hillenbrand’s book.
As for casting, Jolie made some grand choices in picking compelling actors (Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Miyavi, Finn Wittrock, Jai Courtney and Alex Russell).
O’Connell does a superb job at masking Zamperini’s humanness. He gives a raw and vital performance of a human being who never gave up. Backed by his performance is Jolie’s fresh direction and skilled craftsmanship.
Though Jolie does push the envelope on brutal violence quite often, still “Unbroken’s” message is never forgotten or overshadowed. Earning every bit of its hard PG-13 rating, “Unbroken” strips away at the audience’s core until their bones are numb.
In the end, Jolie still surfaces enough heart and power to get Louie’s moving life story out to the public. It’s a fitting tribute to a man who kept on running. Even when this film falls, you keep cheering for it to get back up and keep pushing. So darn the imperfections, “Unbroken” has heart.