The Passion of Zamperini – Unbroken (2014)

Out of the frying pan, into the ocean of sharks.  Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) is the very definition of a survivor.  This is the harrowing story of him fighting for his life in impossible situations, like plane crashes, weeks lost at sea, and dehumanizing abuse in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.  This may sound tangential, but how well can you stomach a Saw movie?  It’s something you have to have a tolerance for, given that you are watching people get pushed within an inch of their life, and sometimes even past that.  While Unbroken never delights in the sadism like a torture porn horror flick, it is still ever present throughout, and you are watching this man’s body and mind get pushed well past any reasonable limit.  It is one thing after another, going from bad to worse, and it is fitting that this man is an Olympic athlete, because this is a marathon of a movie in punishment department.

tracyRemember the movie from 30 Rock that Tracy Jordan released for Oscar Consideration, Hard to Watch?

This is directed by Angelina Jolie, and it’s actually her second major film (I never saw In the Land of Blood and Honey), and I have to say, she directs like a later day Clint Eastwood.  She makes this movie in a very traditional manner, almost in a classical sense.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, there’s just no wow factor; there’s nothing new or groundbreaking here that ever blows you away.  That said, it is an incredible story, so much so that I am surprised there isn’t a large number of renditions of it, detailing this man’s struggle.

unbrokenYou could make a movie from this man’s experience of the lifeboat alone, as Life of Pi already showed is very possible.

These are mostly very green actors, and this is the second time I have seen Jack O’Connell act (he was apparently in 300: Rise of an Empire, which I saw, but he failed to leave an impression in a forgettable movie).  At the beginning, I was worried if he was going to play this guy likable enough so that you form a connection with; he is front and center this entire time, you’re going to have to want to see him get out of this.  I think he fills this role sufficiently, and if there’s anything he is able to capture, it’s this man’s willpower to completely reject death.  I did have a couple of qualms, the biggest one being that this is really the same note over and over again; whenever the situation finally starts to calm down and you see Zamperini finally catch his breath, that’s when the next terrible thing is scheduled to happen and it is really hopeless and desolate at every turn.  It makes you kind of numb to watch this guy continually get beat down, both literally and metaphorically.  Also, I did find the main Japanese antagonist (Takamasa Ishihara) a bit over the top, and he came off as being a bit cartoony in his acting debut.  There is almost nothing that’s here that is going to make you feel good, but other than that, it’s an always interesting story of endurance.

Unbroken (2014) ***1/2

– Critic for Hire


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