Unbroken – Movie Review
Unbroken – PG-13
Release Date: Thu 25 Dec 2014
Unbroken takes an amazing, true story of World War II prisoner of war Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) who was an Olympic competitor. He dealt with overwhelming odds to survive the war and the sadistic camp leader, Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara.) After an exciting if strangely structured first act that cuts between his entire Olympic career and a couple of missions as a bombardier, the movie becomes adrift with a sense that it must drag out parts of the story to make the audience feel how long and hard things were. We spend long scenes with them floating in the ocean waiting for help. Every time it seems like it’s time to move the narrative forward, a subtitle appears telling us how many days it has been. We get it, it doesn’t help the audience to feel bored when you’re trying to convey how brutal and hard it was to stay alive in the middle of the ocean.
And of course we know not only that he will be in a POW camp (trailers!) but that he survives. This wouldn’t be as big of a problem if they give anyone in the camp character development. Watanabe is just a bully and a jerk. He’s cruel, but we’ve seen cruelty in war on the screen before. This really doesn’t shock us. The other character we got to know in the ocean scenes is separated from him before he gets to his camp and never seen again. The closest thing to another character is an Australian POW that says a few things here and there. Otherwise, it’s a long slog of one guy staying alive until the war ends and the movie goes into epilogue.
More interesting things are in the epilogue than the movie. It feels like if you see the trailer and read the Wikipedia article on Zamperini’s life you’d have a similar understanding and an extra 90 minutes left. The movie is beautifully shot – almost to a fault. Wounds disappear, seemingly overnight. Has a huge amount of time passed? It seems to be bright and beautiful weather most of the time. None of the other Japanese guards have any personality. Besides Watanabe and Zamperini, everyone else may as well be CGI. It’s an extremely dull movie about a very interesting subject. It would make a great hour documentary on the history channel. 137-minutes of movie does not an epic make.
Aaron and I saw it in the theater and had a discussion in the car: