The true story of how American Olympian Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) survived the Second World War, despite being in a plane crash and being brutally captured and tortured by the Japanese army.
What we have here is unfortunately a case of the story being a whole lot more remarkable than the film. Because the events are truly incredible, the movie however is a little too conventional and well, safe. That’s not to say it isn’t carried out with efficiency and skill. It’s just a little bit ordinary.
There are some really good set pieces in the movie, the trouble is they are all at the start. The very first scene actually, is the best in the movie. It’s a gripping and heart-pounding aerial scene, what leaves you thinking you are in for a much better film than you get. The Olympic scene is also strong, and contains the most effective use of emotions in the movie. And the surviving in the ocean bit would have been much more impressive if only I hadn’t seen the life of pi, which is on a wholly different level.
It is quite a slow and long film, and at times it does feel like a bit of an ordeal. Especially during the countless scenes of Jack O’Connell getting hit in the face with sticks (this practice takes up about a third of the runtime). It reminded me quite a lot of War Horse, in that both made the same mistakes really. Neither had an ounce of subtlety in their bodies, and both were hugely over-sympathetic with sweeping soundtracks telling you exactly how you should be feeling at this moment in time, which is fine until you notice that is what the soundtrack is doing. The trouble is in Unbroken (and War Horse actually) you notice this straight away, and it’s quite difficult to actually feel too much for the characters after that. Another problem both films faced was the number of characters they involved, but in this case I found that Unbroken dealt with it better, what with having one central character throughout and then slapping on a load of characters with no development, where War Horse was made up entirely of said supporting characters.
Jack O’Connell does well here, but it’s still quite difficult to connect with his character because he almost appears super-human at times. Louis Zamperini is portrayed as a literally flawless character, and that is quite difficult to sympathise with. In the supporting cast everyone involved does their best with very little. Domhall Gleeson does a convincing American accent, Finn Wittrock (Dandy from American Horror Story) is given nothing to do, and Takamasa Ishihara is made to play a character who is made out to be absolutely evil and have no motives other than hatred for Americans.
Overall, it’s a very well made film if very conventional. And I think it will get nominated for a few Oscars, although I will be very surprised if it wins any.