Crashing into the Pacific Ocean, and spending 45 days at sea before eventually being captured, imprisoned and tortured at the hands of the Japanese; there are certain feats of mental, emotional and physical endurance that defy reason. Angelina Joile’s second directorial effort, Unbroken, is a tale of unbelievable survival faced by Olympian and World War Two bomber Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell).
Ms. Joile does an absolutely stellar job behind the lens, helped largely by the fact that the one and only Roger Deakins (Fargo, No Country Old Men, Skyfall) orchestrating the look of the film. Unbroken is just littered with some of the most jaw dropping cinematography of the year and it’s not exclusively reserved for War or dwarfed by the epic Olympic spectacle.
Ms. Joile does a brilliant job of creating space for her entire cast to get a moment to act their pants off. Of course Mr. O’Connell and Domhnall Gleeson playing his fellow crash survivor Russell Allen ‘Phil’ Phillips get the most opportunity to impress under the unforgiving brutality of the sun, the amoral sea and the first taste of Japanese hospitality. Shedding weight like Christian Bale; being blistered from sun burn and caked with grime Mr. O’Connell and Mr. Gleeson help each other stay in touch with sanity as sharks encircle their bobbling raft. Their transformation will leave you gasping. However, the focused torture is reserved for Mr. O’Connell at the hands of Mutsushiro Watanabe, the commanding officer in the Japanese prisoner of war camp. Takamasa Ishihara’s Watanabe is a cretinous spider. As the enemy soldiers are entangled in his web he cannot help but pluck his captives to his tune, lest they be tormented to the brink of death. Watching him flare with fury in the face of Zamperini’s defiance, or whispering almost adoring claims that his captives are his friends will make your blood volt through your veins like larva through an active volcano. While supporting cast Garrett Hedlund, Jai Courtney, Finn Witrock, Alex Russell all have critical, if brief, contributions to Zamperini’s journey from the home front to the depths of hell.
The all-star screenwriting team features Oscar winners Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese (Water for Elephants, The Fisher King) and William Nicholson (Gladiator, Les Misérables) wrangle together this incredible true story into a cohesive whole but there’s not an identifiable authorial voice that emerges from the chorus. Unbroken makes you suffer through abject physical and psychological torture and in a way leaves you enraged and yearning to avenge. Jonathan Teplitzky’s The Railway Man is a more successful holistic film about redemptive struggle and a charting the challenges of a life toward forgiveness. Unbroken forces to face the uncomfortable task of not knowing the path to forgiveness when you’re faced with seemingly endless hatred or the inherent apathy of nature.
A stellar sophomore effort from Ms. Joile, a huge canvas for Mr. O’Connell to announce his arrival on the international acting scene; Unbroken is a beautifully realised survival epic.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Angelina Jolie
Written by: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen and Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson (based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand)
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Jai Courtney, Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson, Finn Wittrock, Alex Russell, Sophie Dalah, Spencer Lofranco, Luke Treadaway, Takamasa Ishihara