Entertainment Movie Reviews

Monday 17 June 2019

Unbroken - 'feels plodding and episodic rather than inspirational'

Domhnall Gleeson (left) in a scene from his new movie Unbroken
Domhnall Gleeson (left) in a scene from his new movie Unbroken

George Byrne

Drama. Starring Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Miyavi, Finn Whitrock, Garrett Hedlund, Jai Courtney. Directed by Angelina Jolie. Cert 12A

3*

The remarkable story of Louie Zamperini is truly deserving of a movie adaptation and, indeed, there are occasions in Angelina Jolie’s second outing as a director when you’re carried away by the sheer force of the man’s drive and determination.

Born of working-class Italian-American stock, Zamperini’s childhood in Depression-era California was marked by minor bouts of delinquency until he discovered his talents as a middle-distance runner and went on to represent his country at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Joining the US air force as a bombardier prior to the attack on Pearl Harbour, he survived being shot down on a couple of occasions, the last time being when he and two crewmates spent 47 days adrift on open life-rafts in the Pacific, their ordeal ended when they were captured by the Japanese and another ordeal began.

This truly is remarkable material and with Jack O’Connell ending what’s been a terrific year for him with another sterling performance to stand alongside his parts inStarred Up and ‘71 this should have been a triumph, yet it somehow feels a tad flat. Part of the problem lies with the script, which credits five writers including Joel and Ethan Coen.

In trying to give us as much of Zamperini’s story as possible, the various scribes have somehow missed out on giving us a true sense of his character, with the result that Unbroken feels plodding and episodic rather than inspirational.

WATCH: The Movie Show Christmas special: Unbroken, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and Annie

There are times when Jolie delivers impressively, not least in an early aerial combat scene and the section where Zamperini and his fellow airmen (played by Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Whitrock) are adrift on the ocean, fending off sharks and eating seabirds to survive.

However, things come badly unstuck once Zamperini is taken prisoner as the director simply serves up scene after scene of wanton cruelty perpetrated by a sadistic camp guard (Miyavi), with ever-diminishing results.

Far too much time is taken up with the inhumane treatment meted out to prisoners-of-war and, while we can undoubtedly sympathise with their plight, we’ve seen this done many times before and much, much better in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Empire of the Sun and Bridge on the River Kwai.

So, despite some excellent sequences Unbroken must count as a missed opportunity to tell a towering tale, which is a pity.

READ Paul Whitington's Review: Unbreakable - Angelina Jolie's wartime epic had the potential to be great

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