“Unbroken” tells the true life story of World War II veteran and Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini (O’Connell). Following his competing at the 1936 Olympics, Zamperini joined the war effort and served as part of a bomber crew. On one of the missions Zamperini’s plane fails and only he and two other members of the crew survive. The three are left to survive in the vast Pacific ocean for weeks upon weeks until they are spotted by the Japanese armed forces.
The film then shows Zamperini’s time in a prisoner of war camp in Japan, where he comes into contact with a strict, brutal guard nicknamed “The Bird” (Ishihara).
This World War II epic is almost like three movies in one. The first third is flashbacks to Zamperini’s time training to be an Olympian, the second takes place on a survival raft after the plane crashes and the third takes place in the prison camp. Despite being an interesting true story, though, the film never feels truly engaging.
Credit can be given to Angelina Jolie and the rest of the crew who put together a fantastic looking film. Attention to detail was given to create the setting, the scenery, the costumes and the camerawork. It’s a movie that works on many technical levels.
The problem is that the movie doesn’t seem to it get beneath the surface, it simply lacks of depth. The audience sees the physical hardships, however, it didn’t seem like there was as much of a psychological analysis of what the real man went through.
There’s no doubt that this story was compelling, most tales of survival are, yet the way it’s presented in “Unbroken” seems by-the-books. There just doesn’t seem to be enough of an edge or style to offer something more fresh.
O’Connell’s performance in the movie is admirable, as he does a great job portraying the terrible hardships that the real man actually went through. I didn’t feel like the movie examined what Zamperini was thinking at certain moments, though. Most of the time the character is on screen he just seems too stoic and invincible at points. I get that the film is trying to show that he remains unbroken, but the movie could have really benefited with a narration or a voice over of what he was thinking at certain moments.
The same problems arise when looking at the villain Watanabe, or The Bird, who was played by Ishihara. Ishihara, who is more well known in Japan, is alright in the role, yet the character doesn’t seem to be as explored as he should. There are some hints thrown in to describe why he is the way he is, however, I think there could have been further analysis.
As previously stated, the movie is very well made at a technical level. The scenes involving the bomber planes on raid missions are very well done as Jolie takes the audience inside and shows what it is like in that sort of cramped space. Also very well shot were the moments in the middle of the Pacific Ocean which demonstrated the abyss that the bomber survivors were in.
“Unbroken” is a good movie but it could have used more depth. There are some good performances and the technical aspects are spot on, yet the film wasn’t gripping like it should have been. 3 out of 5.