At the beginning of 2014, many film enthusiasts predicted that Angelina Jolie’s WWII biopic “Unbroken” would be the frontrunner for Best Picture at the 2015 Academy Awards. Fast track to February 2015 and Unbroken has only 3 Academy Award Nominations for Cinematography, Sound Mixing and Editing. After having seen Unbroken, a Best Picture nomination would be far from warranted…
Unbroken is a WWII film based on the 2010 non-fiction bestseller “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand which recounts the incredible true story of Olympian Louis Zamperini, who during the 2nd World War spent 47 days in a raft before being captured by the Japanese. The film adaptation stars rising English actor Jack O’Connell as Louis Zamperini and a variety of young rising actors such as Jai Courtney, Finn Wittrock and Domhnall Gleeson. The standout, however, is Japanese actor Takamasa Ishihara who portrays a sadistic Japanese officer Wantanabe and proves to be one of the highlights of Jolie’s average film.
The main problem with Jolie’s film is that it is simply dull and poorly paced. The flashbacks of Zamperini’s youth and rise to Olympic fame are far too brief and thus limit any investment in Louis’s character, despite O’Connell’s impressive performance. Furthermore, the film lacks any form of emotional punch, bar one scene, which is essential to make a story as incredible as this work. Without the emotional punch, the film proves rather dull and this is not ideal when making a 2 hour film.
However, the film does have a few redeeming aspects. First is the tense portrayal of Zamperini’s relationship with his sadistic Japanese captor Wantanbe, which works particularly well due to Ishihara’s menacing performance and solid character development. In addition, Jolie does manage in a few scenes to create genuine suspense, most notably scenes involving Zamperini and his two comrades’ encounter with sharks in a raft and Zamperini’s final encounter with Wantanabe. Yet, these moments are few and far between and are too brief too make a real impact.
Despite solid performances from O’Connell and Ishihara, Unbroken suffers from poor pacing and a lack of emotional punch.