In commemoration of the release of the sequel, UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION (2018), I’ve decided to watch the original film. I remember this movie getting a lot of Oscar buzz, being Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut, but I also remember the movie getting a lot of hate. Bad cinematography, I think was a primary reason that I heard. I can’t say, because I never saw the flick. So I’m eager to set forth my own opinion.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Jack O’Connell (TULIP FEVER , MONEY MONSTER , and upcoming films TRIAL BY FIRE  and THE CRADLE ), Garrett Hedlund (BILLY LYNN , and upcoming films DREAMLAND  and TRIPLE FRONTIER ), Jai Courtney (SUICIDE SQUAD , WATER DIVINER , and upcoming films STORM BOY  and ARKIE ), and Miyavi (KONG: SKULL ISLAND ). In support, we have Finn Wittrock (A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM , LANDLINE , LA LA LAND , THE BIG SHORT , and upcoming films IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK  and GREEN OLDS ) and Domhnall Gleeson (THE LITTLE STRANGER , GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN , STAR WARS: FORCE AWAKENS , and upcoming films and THE KITCHEN ).
Now for the crew. Nope, not her directorial debut, my mistake, but the director is Angelina Jolie, known for FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER (2017) and IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY (2011). Writing the screenplay, making for a red flag total of four writers, we have duo Joel and Ethan Coen (HAIL, CAESAR!  and BRIDGE OF SPIES ), Richard LaGraveness (THE COMEDIAN ), and William Nicholson (EVEREST ). Composing the score is Alexandre Desplat, known for OPERATION FINALE (2018), SHAPE OF WATER (2017), THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS (2016), THE DANISH GIRL (2015), and upcoming films THE SISTERS BROTHERS (2018) and KURSK (2018). The cinematographer is Roger Deakins, known for BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017), HAIL! CAESAR, SICARIO (2015), THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994), and the upcoming THE GOLDFINCH (2019). Finally, co-editing are William Goldenberg (DETROIT , LIVE BY NIGHT , CONCUSSION , and the upcoming 22 JULY ) and Tim Squyres (BILLY LYNN, and upcoming films THE RED SEA DIVING RESORT  and GEMINI MAN ).
This is my honest opinion of: UNBROKEN
Set during World War II. Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) was an Olympic runner and set a world record in the process. Some time later, he joined the bombardiers in the Air Force. During a mission, his plane crashes in the middle of the ocean and only he and two other crew members survived. Several days adrift, one perishes, but Louis and Phil (Domhnall Gleeson) are picked up by the Japanese, and brought to a prison camp, where Louis experiences torture, humiliation, and beatings at the hands of the despicable Corporal “the Bird” Watanabe (Miyavi).
Eh… I think I can see why a lot of people I knew back then didn’t like this movie as much, though I dislike it for different reasons. With that said, I don’t think it deserved all the hate. Though, yes, I don’t think it was an amazingly good movie worthy of an Oscar nom.
First and foremost, this movie has a pretty slow and choppy start. Louis’ time in the Air Force before and during his crash are interlaced with flashbacks to his childhood as a bullied kid, and his running days. There’s no reason for this. It would have been cleaner if the opening sequence was him running in the Olympics with quick flashes of his childhood and encouragement from his family, roll out the title, and then linearly tell the presented story. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. While I might argue that the pre-Air Force scenes when Louis is a kid and training for the Olympics are paced fine, the Air Force scenes drag unnecessarily long. The real opening scene is a dog fight that goes on and on. It’s like Jolie wanted to showcase how good she can make her action scenes. Admittedly, on a visual standpoint, it’s not bad. The effects and some of the sound mixing is solid. The problem is that the scene as a whole lasts far too long. The opening scene could have simply been the plane crashing in the middle of the ocean and no one in the audience would have been the wiser.
Sadly, “slow” and “boring” is a pretty good way to describe this movie. When Louis, Phil, and Mac (Finn Wittrock) survive their plane crash, this also lasts a freakish long time. They try eating a seagull, catch fish, eat sharks, get shot at from a fighter plane, Mac dies, it takes a long time for the Japanese to pick them up. In fact, in this two hour and seventeen minute flick, it takes one of those hours to even get to what Zamperini is famous for: being a prisoner of war. And even once we get to that, it’s very PASSION OF THE CHRIST, in the sense of the next hour just being Louis getting the shit kicked out of him. Don’t get me wrong, some scenes are done alright. Like when the prisoners are forced to line up and punch Louis, though one would think the head trauma alone would have been enough to kill him. But, apparently, he really did go through that (along with other prisoners for different reasons), so I digress about questioning the reality. I also really did like the scene where he had to hold a heavy wooden beam over his head for x-amount of time. I might question why Watanabe was suddenly so damned scared of him in that moment, but it was a dramatic high point.
I think the movie would have been made so much more interesting if there was more focus on the relationship between Louis and Watanabe. I mean, what about Louis made the Corporal so obsessed with him? We can probably surmise that Louis was an Olympic athlete and his importance was what he decided that meant. We could have had a real-world Batman-Joker type of relationship going on. However, that’s not exactly a thing that’s explored. Perhaps it’s because there was no relationship? Maybe it really was surface deep. I doubt many have managed to interview the real Watanabe to understand him a whole lot. So it’s entirely possible that what we see on screen is the extent of their “relationship.” I guess that means this story is relatively dead on arrival, but even taking all that wishful thinking out of it, the interest that this movie tries to garner is not there. I can respect what Zamperini went through and I wouldn’t ever dare to tell him that it’s a boring story. But as a movie… a medium of either entertainment, critical thinking, or information, this is a little too bleak of a watch with very limited moments of levity.
Overall, I can’t say that this is a bad film. It’s really not. Some of the set pieces are really good, despite this being a “watered down” version of the book (not that I read it), it’s still a respectable piece that truly does honor the real life man. Some scenes are effective, the acting is perfectly serviceable, there’s more than enough to appreciate. However, it’s far too long to justify its runtime, it’s not directed very well, the writing is not good, most of it being “trailer lines” if that makes any sense, and it’s a slow burn with payoffs that are too far in between. As a recommendation… eh, it might be more beneficial to read the book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.
My honest rating for UNBROKEN: 3/5