Director: Angelina Jolie (2014)
Celebrating the human capacity for endurance, this true-life tale of Second World War survival is barely believable – and not for the faint-hearted.
It’s based on the book by Lauren Hillenbrand which covers the life of USA Olympian and airman Louis ‘Louie’ Zamperini.
Director Angelina Jolie demonstrates she’s far from the minimally talented spoiled brat that recently leaked Sony emails would insist, crafting a handsome and traditional movie with exciting flying sequences and strong acting from watchable performers.
But it does suffer from repetition and so fails to achieve the emotional pitch it strives for.
Born into a poor family young Louie (Brit star Jack O’Connell) learns resilience when he’s bullied for being an immigrant. His older brother Pete (Alex Russell) encourages him to channel his energy on the athletics track to avoid getting into serious trouble.
After representing the US as a distance runner at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Louie enlists as an airman. While on a rescue mission his plane crashes in the Pacific.
This is the strongest part of the movie as dialogue is kept to a minimum allowing the orchestra and the scenery do the talking, captured with customary finesse by ace British cinematographer Roger Deakins.
Picked up by the Japanese navy the survivors are subjected to interrogation, beatings and solitary confinement before being transferred to a savage POW camp.
It’s ran by the sadistic warden nicknamed ‘The Bird’, played competently by Japanese musician Miyavi in his first acting role. But the fraught relationship between guard and prisoner is forced and unconvincing.
Louie is offered by an easy life in exchange for allowing his celebrity runner status as Japanese propaganda in radio broadcasts but instead is returned and sent to a dockside coal-yard – where The Bird is once again in charge.
An early Oscar front runner Unbroken only picked up nominations for cinematography, sound mixing and sound editing and it will be interesting to see if Jolie can build a second career from her solid efforts here.