In this World War II epic, we watch a man continuously suffer for his country, and yet still find the strength to stand tall.
Review (with Spoilers) – Below
Characters & Story
Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), since his childhood, has lived off his brother Pete’s (John D’Leo/ Alex Russell) words that: “If I can take it, I can make it.” Something said to him in his youth when his brother pushed him to stop being to town hooligan and become a track runner. Leading to eventually Louis becoming an Olympic runner. However, with World War II leading to Louis becoming a soldier, his track star Olympic dreams came to a halt. Thus beginning the main part of this film which explores how one man found a way to survive a plane crash, a detention camp, and one man, last name Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara), who equally admired and hated him.
It is truly a beautiful thing when you can say see you’ve seen some of someone’s early work, in this case O’Connell, and how they have progressed as an actor since then. For while not a huge fan of O’Connell, it is hard to deny that like Nicholas Hoult, he is probably one of the few to truly be a breakout star from Skins. Focusing on his performance in Unbroken, though, truly he defines what he can consistently bring as an actor. Someone who is capable of charm, very stubborn, and yet will take whatever is thrown at him and rise up like some sort of Marvel superhero. Something we constantly see as Louis nearly starves to death, is beaten and abused to the point you expect him to die of internal injuries, and yet he still rises again and again. Truly making for perhaps one of the few memorable performances from a male actor this year.
And I would be remiss to not mention Ishihara’s performance as well. For with him being the sole representation when it comes to the Japanese empire, he almost presents the type of villain which makes Unbroken damn near seem like a Bond film. For there is something inherently twisted about the scenes between Watanabe and Louis. For Watanabe admires Louis, seems him as his friend, yet puts him through hell in an effort to possibly prove that just because they are similar, it doesn’t mean they are equals. Making him quite the oddly lovable villain.
However, despite good performances from those two, and decent ones from their supporting actors, which include Domhnall Gleeson (About Time) as Phil and Finn Wittrock (American Horror Story – Freak Show) as Mac, the film suffers the same issues most war films do: It is too damn long. For example, after a plane crash, it seems like the film focuses on the 40+ day waiting period to be rescued by the Japanese far too long. Making it so death, shark attacks, and more barely keep you from wanting to drift to sleep.
Which leads to perhaps another serious issue: As good as O’Connell is as lead, and as good as the aforementioned people are as supporting characters, during their moments alongside O’Connell, he isn’t like Tom Hanks, or someone similar, who can carry a movie this long. For while he has charm, this superhero in the making type of stubbornness, and is definitely a star, you can see he is not capable of carrying a movie alone. Well, at least at this point of his career. So with both Gleeson and Wittrock having a limited supporting role, as well as Ishihara, you get many points in the film where it truly seems O’Connell isn’t enough. For personally, if it wasn’t for the fact AMC doesn’t have the most comfortable of chairs, I might have dozed off.
Overall: TV Viewing
Perhaps the sole issue of the film is that, like many war dramas, especially of the biographical variety, there is this need to cut the fat that isn’t taken. Whether it is because the creators want to respect the person whose story they are basing the film on, some ludicrous idea that it takes 2 hours to tell a good story, or simply an inability to think just as much about the audience, as their artistry. Either way, when you combine the time length with O’Connell not having the type of supporting actors he needs, at this point of his career, to keep the film interesting, hopefully, you can understand why I’m labeling this TV Viewing.
Things To Note
While it is definitely unfortunate neither Angelina Jolie nor O’Connell were nominated for a Golden Globe, I do think, at the very least, O’Connell would be on the short list. For really, while not a career defining movie, I definitely see this film as him really stepping up and showing what he, at his best, could possibly bring to a movie.
“If I can take it, I can make it.”
“A moment of pain is with a lifetime of glory.”