I saw this little YouTube video that Angelina Jolie put up about how she had a disease—chicken pox, I think—and that’s why she wasn’t doing publicity for her freshman film, Unbroken, based on the book of the same name. Kinda sad. Once in a lifetime event and all that.
What does this have to do with the movie? Not much. But then, I can’t really figure out much about the reaction to this movie, which is a solid hero-endures-hellish-conditions type flick.
Jack O’Connell plays Louis Zamperini, a delinquent whose brother gets him straight by getting him into track. After a surprise top showing (8th place) at the ‘36 Olympics, he was looking forward to the ’40 Olympics when something comes up to put a kosh on that idea.
That something? World War II.
I’m joking here, of course, but WWII looms so large in our national memory, it’s almost funny to realize that, at the time, a lot of people didn’t see it coming. (Sort of like the next big war you’re pretending won’t happen.)
Anyway, Zamperini ends up a bombardier which, as I understand it, wasn’t the deadliest place to be in a plane—I think the tailgunners had that honor—but it was pretty close. Sure enough, his plane crashes at sea and he and his crew ends up adrift for a month and a half!
Good news, bad news, when they’re finally rescued, but by the Japanese.
Well, we all know what monsters the Japanese were in WWII, and how they felt about POWs, and Unbroken spends the bulk of its time showing Zamperini enduring some truly remarkable and horrible things. It’s much like 12 Years A Slave, in that regard, so it’s a fair bet that if you didn’t like that or wouldn’t watch that, you’ll not care much for this, either.
The movie has a shockingly low 51% from Critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and only breeches the 70s for audiences, but it doesn’t (to me) seem to be any less worthy a film than Slave. So I can only figure a few things: It wasn’t the right person being tortured (a sorta-white guy—in the ’30s, Italians were only sorta white), it wasn’t the right people torturing (non-white guys), and I think, at least for the popular vote, a lot of people expected it to be more like the book, which I think spends a lot of time on his PTSD and religion-aided recovery.
But it’s already over 2 hours, although the length works pretty well with the theme of endurance. We feel Zamperini’s struggles without being bored. Overall, a very solid flick, with (I think) strong Eastwood influences. There’s not a lot of emotionalism or sentiment. Stuff happens. People endure.
I wouldn’t say it’s a great movie, which I think is part of why it’s been judged harshly. It is a great story and a much beloved book, so I think expectations were high. Jack O’Connell (of the highly praised ’71) is great as Zamperini. And there are some great moments in it.
The Boy liked it as well.