After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he’s caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.
Unbroken is the passion project of Director Angelina Jolie. It is based on the true story of World War II veteran and former Olympian Louis Zamperini and his struggle as a prisoner of war.
The film opens with a strong cinematic experience. Midway through World War II we find Louis and fellow soldiers engaged in a aerial battle over Japan. This opening scene is one of the greatest visual depictions of air warfare that I have seen in a film. From the inner workings of the bomber plane itself to the explosions lighting up the pale blue sky, this scene was filled with eye candy. Visually, this opening sequence was the climactic moment of the film as the rest of the film revolved around developing the main character Louis.
The way that Louis was defined was interesting in itself. Taking the approach of relational flashbacks, Unbroken uses moments in Louis’ past to explain his responses to dire situations. In moments of hopelessness we see a moment of Louis’ past that connects to his need to endure. In moments of pain a flashback connects to his urge to resist. Fans of the TV show “LOST” may be familiar with this approach and enjoy the unraveling of Louis as the film progresses. Given the popularity of this “top-down” character development, it’s no surprise that this method was an overall success in connecting audiences with the main character.
Despite being a well-shot film with a strongly developed main character, Unbroken was not without flaws. There are moments throughout the film that seem to linger for extended periods. While this lingering may be a mechanism for conveying Louis’ punishing, isolated monotony, it may be difficult for some to maintain interest. This lingering significantly slows the plot progression as moments of redundancy become apparent after the intended message is already established.
Overall I would say that Unbroken holds value as a biographical adaptation. While there are moments of lingering throughout, the overall message is conveyed through strong characters and beautiful depictions of the hardships of war. For the war loving cinephiles out there, I think that you can definitely find some enjoyment from the film. For others, you may still enjoy the film but be mentally prepared to invest some time. Unbroken may not be a cinematic masterpiece but it definitely has appeal for certain demographics.
Unbroken – 7 out of 10
A beautifully shot but long-winded war epic.