UNBROKEN | MOVIE REVIEW

Finally Angelina’s movie, UNBROKEN releases in Australia on 15th January. It looks stunning and from what she has done to Jack O’Connell he will become a Hollywood star. O’Connell has been on my radar for a long time, a superb actor that stole the show with Luke Pasqualino and Kaya Scodelario in SKINS as James Cook and then went on to star in the amazing prison movie STARRED UP, 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE and upcoming Irish movie ’71. This kid will go a long way and working with Jolie is a good thing on your CV. This is being released by Universal Pictures Australia and I am wondering if they delayed the release of this so as not to conflict with Russell Crowe’s war movie, THE WATER DIVINER, different war but same distributor. They also filmed a lot of this in Australia with the bridge the Japanese drive over being the local bridge at Bermagui, just around the corner from my parental unit’s place. UNBROKEN is rated M and runs for 137mins – now suss out Kernel Kerryn’s review of the movie, personally I can’t wait, its gotta be better than THE WATER DIVINER!! All the best……………..JK. 

 

UNBROKEN MOVIE POSTER IMAGE
UNBROKEN | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | AUSTRALIAN MOVIE POSTER IMAGE

 

REVIEW BY KERRYN WILLIAMS

Brilliant yellow swells into vivid blue and encroaching roseate, a roaring Pratt and Whitney turbo charged engine thunders past the rising sun. The Consolidated B-24 Liberator, produced in larger numbers than any other American aircraft in World War Two approaches its target.  Immediately Flak spits up from the ground and within seconds the ten man crew are easy targets for the swift agile Japanese Zeros (the plane most notoriously known for its raid on Pearl Harbour). They press on in what was commonly referred to as the ‘flying coffin’ and the signature twin bay bomb doors open releasing a highly volatile barrage of destruction from its metal belly. The sequence is intense, the sound is gushing from all directions and blood washes over the 12.7mm spent casings pouring from its twin machine guns; okay I’m ready… Sold!

Soon we are back in a small Californian town and a much younger boy finds trouble as any mischievous child would. The dusty hues replace the endless ocean as first introduced to us and we are given an opportunity to meet Louis Zamperini played by Jack O’Connell (STARRED UP) as he grows up. I almost expected a voice over narration to the film interlaced with interviews as it follows closely to a documentary style of direction at this point. This made it hard to get any sense of attachment to the characters here. I felt that this was quite strange coming into a film that had four writers most of whom could have easily sold the story to the most unwavering of producers in Hollywood. Yet as we progress through Zamperini’s early life I’m sitting here not really caring much for what the film is supposedly telling me. The script was first pulled together from the pages of SEABISCUIT author Laura Hillenbrand by screenwriters Richard LaGravenese (WATER FOR ELEPHANTS) and William Nicholson (LES MISERABLES, GLADIATOR). But it seems as though not satisfied with their efforts the producers then gave the script a potential Oscar overhaul from writing royalty Joel and Ethan Cohen (FARGO, TRUE GRIT), the end result is a mixed bag of structure and emotions that director Angelina Jolie can’t seem to find momentum with.

 

UNBROKEN MOVIE IMAGE
UNBROKEN | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | LOUIS ZAMPERINI (JACK O’CONNELL) WINNING A RACE

 

UNBROKEN has a huge list of talent on board and Jolie strikes gold with master director of photography Roger Deakins (SKYFALL, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN). Each scene is beautifully shot and the emotion translates well when you’re looking at it; however I’m not here to experience 137 minutes of Oprah telling me how emotional I should feel towards Zamperini, instead I want to feel the connection. The film is like elegant quilted squares however with terrible stitching and the more Jolie pulls at the same thread the more it falls apart.

Louis Zamperini’s story is one that should translate very easily for film; a boy full of despair from nothing becomes a champion Olympic athlete and then rises up against the odds. This shouldn’t have been a problem for anyone to tell the audience. He is then swept up into the theatre of war and assigned to a B-24 long range bomber where soon the aircraft is shot down over the endless might of the ocean. Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), Phil (Domhnall Gleeson) and Mac (Finn Wittrock) are the sole survivors of the crash and their lives are suddenly stripped bare in a life raft somewhere in the mid-Pacific. The struggle of survival that follows against the sharp thorns of the sun, the prying bite of sea water and the constant shouting of psychological torment is a testament to his story. It’s true to say that any normal person would have perished adrift at sea after a few days, let alone manage to stay out the demons of such an ordeal for 47 days. Director Jolie delivers some powerful moments here at sea and during the sequence that follows after Zamperini is picked up by a Japanese warship, held prisoner in the murky Marshall Islands and then later transported to a P.O.W. camp in Japan.

 

UNBROKEN MOVIE IMAGE
UNBROKEN | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | WATANABE (TAKAMASA ISHIHARA) LOOKING OVER THE PRISONERS

 

However this is where I think the film begins to show signs of weakness, everything that follows in Japan is just a repeat of before and an endless flourish of Zamperini being tormented by a Japanese commander of a P.O.W. camp. The story really slows and drudges through at an inconsistent pace which becomes tiresome, especially after spending so long at sea. It’s possible this is where the writers tried to outdo each other hashing out more elaborate ways in which to punish the main character, whether or not it actually happened to him soon becomes irrelevant. For the next half of the film we are subjected to him being beaten, whipped or punched repeatedly, only changing the scenery every so often.

I get that Zamperini went through quite an extraordinarily harsh series of events in his life and that this story sets out that he is more than just a man but Jolie never really pursues this and we are never really given a reason why his story is so special or unique. Instead we are dished up cheesy one liner’s that you would normally find on the side of a Milo tin “If I can take it, I can make it”. Impossible set pieces like holding a timber beam over his head for an endless amount of time to infuriate the Japanese commander as though this gives him a reason not to just shoot him anyway. Pushing that aside however it’s quite evident that Jolie felt an emotional connection to Zamperini and like a doting mother he is all that matters and he must be triumphant. We are treated with some emotionally taut and powerful moments throughout his journey.

 

UNBROKEN MOVIE IMAGE
UNBROKEN | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | WATANABE (TAKAMASA ISHIHARA) TAUNTING PRE PUNISHMENT LOUIS ZAMPERINI (JACK O’CONNELL)

 

I do think there are things that can be taken away from this but I just felt like it could have been handled better in the end. The film dapples in the light of its trailer which misleadingly tips awards territory but instead wanders astray with a mixture of messages and beautifully shot scenes that aren’t coherently pieced together.

Roger Deakin’s work is master class and if anything can be touted from UNBROKEN is his unwavering ability as a DP. The cast do their best but lack that one step further you would get from having a Hopkins or a Hanks calibre onscreen. I would have to say the shining light was Domhnall Gleeson (Phil) who stole the light from Jack O’Connell (Zamperini) whenever they shared the screen. The score from Alexandre Desplat is beautiful and emotional and really lends to the story of hope and fortitude.

UNBROKEN is ultimately slightly broken as a whole and not even the Oscar worthy crew can keep it together until the end. I can only assume that this a result of Jolie’s persistent knackering pursuit of one man’s victimisation and glossy triumphant resolution without fully exploring anything more than a skin deep level of emotion of the characters. I never really cared whether he survived or not but I did walk out with a level of satisfaction that you would expect from a war drama. It’s definitely worth a watch and my friend who accompanied me to see it walked out pleasantly surprised without no prior knowledge of the film, but for those wanting to really feel anything more than a scratch you won’t find it here. It’s no BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI or LIFE OF PI.

 

3 Pops