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January 8, 2015

Unbroken (***) PG-13

Angelina Jolie’s sophomore directing effort Unbroken is mostly a by-the-numbers adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s book of the same name. There isn’t a lot of nuance to be found in the film and the whole affair is painted very broadly in shades of black and white. Nevertheless, it is at times an undeniably affecting piece of work and a testament to the human spirit in the best possible way. Jolie may not be the most ideal choice for the material but the film still manages to shine through in spite of whatever questionable directorial choices she may have made in parts of the film. That’s as much of a testament to the film’s source material as anything else.

Jack O’Connell, in a career making performance, stars as Louis Zamperini, an American World War II prisoner of war survivor. He’s such a close enough physical presence to his real counterpart that we believe him every step of the way. And he’s also capable of the emotional heft that the part requires of him. I’m not sure his performance is of Oscar caliber but it’s enough to get him noticed in casting calls for future film projects.

The film’s screenplay is, interestingly enough, credited to four screenwriters. Joel and Ethan Coen (yes, those Coen Brothers, you read that correctly), Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson.

Jack O’Connell in Unbroken

Still, the film’s story template and narrative follows through in a mostly straightforward fashion. In the film’s early scenes Louie is a perpetual screwup and troublemaker par excellence. Then he discovers a talent for running which is unfortunately cut short when he enlists in the Army during WW II. The film then depicts Zamperini’s 47 days spent in a life raft after a plane crash only to be captured by the Japanese, sent to a POW camp and tortured.

The film unfortunately, save for a few title cards at the end, doesn’t tell us anything about Zamperini’s later life, which apparently would have made up a great portion of the film. His conversion to Christianity in 1949, failed marriages and struggles with PTSD are barely mentioned. This is the stuff of great drama but director Jolie and her screenwriting cohorts felt it wasn’t worthy of the film, although I disagree and feel this is where the film could have definitely been improved.

The technical credits in the film are solid but a real shout out must be given to the great cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose lensing of the pic gives it the extra special something it needed when the film is running dangerously close to cliché. Even when the action onscreen is at a standstill, Deakins camera always invigorates. Only one of the reasons why I marginally recommend Unbroken.

Unbroken is playing everywhere in the area.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at



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