Unbroken: Film Review – Enduring it will be your test

World War II gave us heroes. There are terrific stories of courage, determination and devotion to duty.

Unbroken is about one hero. An Olympic athlete with humble beginnings – Louis Zamperini. His story has been retold to remind us about the strength of the human spirit. Directed by Angelina Jolie, Unbroken tries to stay true and interesting. But in the end, you are left feeling disconnected from our hero’s story. Unbroken gives us an overview of one man’s struggle to survive, but it doesn’t draw you in. At the end of the film, you will feel that the spirit of Unbroken hasn’t been depicted as well as it could have been.
 
The story of Unbroken is about Louis Zamperini (Jack O’ Connell) and his experiences in a Japanese P.O.W. Camp. Zamperini was an Olympic athlete who competed in the infamous 1936 Berlin Olympics. When the United States entered the war, Zamperini enlisted and flew as a bombardier on board B-24 Liberators. Stationed in the Pacific, thus began Zamperini’s war. Over the course of the mission, his plane goes down. Adrift on the vast ocean, he and his captain (Domhnall Gleeson) face starvation and dehydration. Soon, they are picked up by a Japanese patrol. Sent to a prisoner of war camp, Zamperini faces his greatest challenge yet, the challenge of survival in the face of insurmountable odds. In the end, it comes down to whether his spirit will remain unbroken.
 
Angelina Jolie has chosen a tough story to tell. In a sense, difficult. The visuals are captivating and you are shown the rigors of war. But it doesn’t communicate the horrors of war very well. Unbroken takes its time to show you who Zamperini really is, but it doesn’t really define that spirit of him. We are left feeling a little disconnected. The movie doesn’t feel like a documentary, nor does it feel like a cinematic saga. The story of a hero’s struggle is supposed to draw the audience in, you need to feel the emotional struggle and the pain and guilt of surviving. Everyone has those days when all you want to do is give up and something gives you the strength to continue, to fight and make it. This movie tries to capture that feeling, but it doesn’t. What you are left with is a movie about a hero that could have been so much better. So much more. It feels unfinished. 
 
Jack O’Connell as Zamperini is good. He isn’t perfect but he tries. His tormentor “The Bird”, played by Takamasa Ishihara, comes across as a jealous suitor with anger issues. Domhnall Gleeson plays his part well enough. The visuals are okay. But a special mention has to be made for the depiction of the B-24 Liberator, which makes you feel like you are right there in the middle of a WWII bomber. The soundtrack doesn’t resonate with the story and movies like these need a strong soundtrack to connect with the audience. The cast does the best with the roles that they have been given. One wonders, though, how much of their roles ended up on the editing floor. Unbroken on the whole, is an attempt. Not a good one at that.
 
Why should you watch this film? 
Unbroken is one of those movies that tell a story about a man and his spirit. That is the biggest reason to watch this movie. To quibble over the way the story is told is fine. But you need to remember that these stories have to be heard and told, so that you remember the men and women whose sacrifices kept the darkness away. Watch the movie and try to think about the true cost of war. That should give you pause.

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