Director: Angelina Jolie
Writer: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson
Based on: Laura Hillenbrand‘s book
Cast: Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Miyavi, Finn Wittrock, Jai Courtney, Luke Treadaway, Ross Anderson, Alex Russell
Seen on: 19.01.2015
Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) was a troublemaker as a kid until his brother Pete (Alex Russell) had the idea to channel his energy into running. And it pays of – Louie is sent to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. A few years later, thought, he finds himself fighting against Germany and Japan in World War II. When his plane is shot down over the sea, somewhere close to Japan, and only Louie, Phil (Domhnall Gleeson) and Mac (Finn Wittrock) survive the crash, things don’t look too well. And it only becomes worse, when they are captured by Japanese soldiers and end up prisoners of war. But Louie doesn’t give up easily.
Unbroken is okay as a film. It’s a little formulaic and a little too on the nose, but it’s solid filmmaking that just doesn’t quite reach the emotional heights it’s aiming for.
Unbroken is a film that in the hands of somebody more conservative would have been a disaster of ‘MURICAness. Fortunately (for me) Jolie goes about it with more reflection, even though she misses something, too, especially because she leaves out the part where Zamperini comes back to the USA, suffering from grave PTSD.
I’m also not too happy with racial representation. There is no doubt in my mind that what Zamperini went through was horrific and that there was much cruelty and abuse in those prisoners of war camps. But unfortunately the movie focuses on one single guard who was clearly deranged, making systematic violence look like the actions of one madman, at once diminishing the atrocities and painting a very biased picture of the Japanese soldiers – who certainly weren’t great but they were still human. It also irked me that I couldn’t find a single soldier of color in the entire film, but I’m pretty sure there were non-white US-American soldiers in Japan, too.
Other than that, though, the film was decent enough. Especially the cast was excellent. But it suffers from the same condition as The Theory of Everything in that it plays things too safe, ultimately failing to reach what it could have reached. You know exactly how everything will play out and you can predict every turn.
In fact, the only character I had any emotional investment in at the end was Phil – and that is probably more to do with me liking Domhnall Gleeson so much and less with Phil himself. But when the film ended, with the usual summary of what happened afterwards, I didn’t care about Zamperini, I just wanted to know whether Phil survived. Fortunately, the film gave me that info.