"Unbroken" good but overdone

Dec. 30, 2014, 8:26 p.m. | By Robert Pfefferle | 9 years, 4 months ago

Film's multiple climaxes and lack of pacing dampen Zamperini's story

"Unbroken" is the remarkable true story of Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell), featuring Olympic games, World War II plane crashes and torture in Japanese prisoner of war camps. Based on Laura Hillenbrand's 2010 best-seller, director Angelina Jolie struggles to recreate the smoothly paced plot of Hillenbrand's book. Instead, Jolie creates build-ups and climaxes for each segment of Zamperini's story, which ultimately causes the story to lose its fluidity.

While Jolie struggled to pace the movie, she and her all-star production crew didn't fail to present Zamperini's intriguing story properly: the scenes are very impressive. The movie starts out with a bang, with Louis flying on an Air Force bomber during WWII. The movie then cuts back in time to Zamperini's youth, where we meet Louis through scenes of him drinking, smoking, and looking up girl's skirts, successfully establishing Louis' "bad boy" character early.

The film shows Louis turning himself into one of the best runners in the country, then suddenly throws his story back into the war. In one of many questionably timed scenes, Louis' plane is shown crashing into the Pacific Ocean, but as they prepare for impact, the movie cuts back to him racing in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Even though the timing of the scene is off, Jolie does a great job accurately portraying Zamperini's running style, depicting him saving his energy for the end of the race and turning it into a very exciting scene.

While stranded on a raft for 47 days with "Phil" Phillips (Domhnall Gleeson) and "Mac" McNamara (Finn Wittrock), O'Connell successfully emphasizes Zamperini's selflessness and resilient behavior. The scene also manages to communicate the length of the time without making the scene itself too long.

The recreation of Zamperini's time on the raft is one of the best parts of the movie.  Photo courtesy of LA Times.

On the other hand, the film overemphasizes Zamperini's time in the POW camps. Hillenbrand's book also spent a significant amount of time in the POW camp, but Jolie has just a few too many scenes of Zamperini being brutally tortured by the Japanese.

Looking beyond the movie's pitfalls, actor Jack O'Connell does a magnificent job at portraying the spirit and emotions of Louis Zamperini. From the frustration displayed while stuck on the raft, to the mental fortitude from his time in the POW camps, O'Connell successfully creates a name for himself in "Unbroken."
Make no mistake, "Unbroken" is worth seeing: Zamperini's story is truly incredible. However, for those who read Hillenbrand's book and were satisfied, Angelina Jolie's spin of it might frustrate.

"Unbroken" is rated PG-13 for drama and action and is playing in theaters everywhere

Tags: Angelina Jolie Domhnall Gleeson Finn Wittrock Jack O'Connell Laura Hillenbrand Louis Zamperini Unbroken

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