‘Unbroken’ Can’t be Fixed

As one of the most touted films of this past holiday season, “Unbroken” is a biopic based on the best-selling book of the same title, which follows the life of Olympic star and WWII veteran, Louis Zamperini (Jack O’ Connell).

It is a story of resilience, as he undergoes extreme and horrendous circumstances and situations, and yet is able to remain unbreakable. Lots of buzz also surrounded famed actress Angelina Jolie, who makes her second outing as a director.

Relying heavily on human emotions and struggles, this war film is more akin to “Cast Away” than “Saving Private Ryan.” Its execution though, falls short of being an epic tale of triumph, and the plot as well as Jolie’s direction, have a lot to do with its mediocrity.

Judging from the opening sequence of a firefight over the Pacific, one would imagine this tale is a thriller/adventure film. Quite on the contrary, the pace then slows down tremendously and instead focuses on the monumental struggle of Louis.  Jack O’ Connell does a decent job of delivering some great lines. The good dialogue though is few and far between and much of his screen time is spent grimacing in pain or contemplating life. The lack of decent plot and writing seems so odd, as some of Hollywood’s best writers, including the Coen brothers, wrote the script.

Although the writing and directing fall short, Roger Deakins, the director of photography, creates some masterfully shot angles depicting the rawness and epic struggle that Louis faces. The standout scenes are in the Pacific Ocean as Louis and his surviving crew-members brave 47 days drifting out at sea.

Another drawback though, is the juggling back and forth with flashbacks of Louis early childhood and journey to become a track star and Olympic athlete. As a whole, these flashbacks work decently, but they serve more as backstory than anything else. There is no captivation or ethos that are felt during these scenes.

Likewise, the lengthy second and third act lack depth and character development. I felt like this film is telling a story and saying “this scene is sad and tragic,” rather than actually portraying it and making the audience feel as if we are there with the characters on their survival journey. There are a few powerful scenes here and there, but the combination of flat dialogue and lack of compelling story in Louis’ struggle as a prisoner of war is more of a chore to watch than an enjoyable experience.

The slightly redeeming quality at the films climax though is Louis’ determination to survive, which really hits home and makes me wonder where this passion was in the rest of the film. The score was epic, and the film is shot with great detail, but the plot of “Unbroken” merely goes through the motions to create just another average biopic film.

 

NOT RECOMMENDED: Although it has a lot of potential, this film is a snoozer and unable to live up to the hype and beauty of its opening sequence.