MOVIE REVIEW: UNBROKEN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ANGELINA JOLIE / SCREENPLAY: JOEL COEN, ETHAN COEN, RICHARD LAGRAVENESE, WILLIAM NICHOLSON / STARRING: JACK O’CONNELL, TAKAMASA ISHIHARA, DOMHNALL GLEESON / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 26TH
Confounding all expectations, Angelina Jolie has directed a dynamic film worthy of David Lean and John Ford. No doubt, this movie will be a major contender for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It’s the true story of one man’s courage to succeed in spirit, combat and in life.
After the breathtaking first image of a squadron of B-24 Liberators heading towards their bomb run on a Japanese-held island in the Pacific during World War II, we’re introduced to bombardier Louis Zamperini (passionately portrayed by O’Connell) and his crew as they deliver their payload. Attacked by Japanese Zero’s in an action-packed battle, and forced to crash-land back at their base - with just feet to spare before going into the drink.
We flashback to Zamperini’s youth as a misfit child always getting into trouble, but with the police giving him several chances to straighten himself out because of his well-liked and respected family. His older brother, Pete (Alex Russell), encourages Louis to try out for the track team; inspiring him that there’s nothing he can’t do if he puts his mind to it. Telling him that a lifetime of pain is worth one moment of glory. Not only does he excel at running over the years as he grows up, he’s chosen for to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, going on to break records.
Flash-forward to World War II, his crew are given a patched together B-24 ‘lame duck’ (or ‘lemon plane’ as they were called) to search for a downed aircraft when two out of four engines cut out and they crash in the ocean.
The pilot, gunner, and Zamperini are the only survivors as they stay adrift at sea for 47 days; up against a heavy storm, surviving off what fish they can catch, and enemy aircraft strafing them in open water until a Japanese ship finally picks them up, they are tortured and transferred to a POW camp outside of Tokyo.
Here we meet the ruthless commandant of the camp, Sergeant Watanabe (Ishihara, who should be nominated for Best Supporting Actor), known as ‘the Bird’ as he sees and hears everything. He’s a brutal, bitter, complex man who takes his aggression out on Zamperini, making him his favorite whipping boy due to his own failings of never being able to achieve being an officer like his father. Zamperini’s ordeal through cruel physical and emotional pain is riveting, but he is truly a man who remains unbroken against all odds.
Roger (Skyfall) Deakins’ cinematography paints each scene picture perfect as if it were a Rembrandt painting. The score by Alexande Desplat adds to the richness of the film. The impressive sound department pays painstaking attention to detail, as does the art direction by Charlie Revai and his team. All are worthy of Academy Award nominations in their fields.
An interesting side note; Louis Zamperini’s story was sought-after in the 50’s by several studios. In 1957, Tony Curtis was considered to star in the autobiographical project and years later, Nicolas Cage. But it wasn’t until 2010 when Miss Hillenbrand’s book became a bestseller, did the film finally come to fruition.
A remarkable, emotional, moving film that must be seen.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10