Unbroken reviews

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Re: Unbroken reviews

Postby dws1982 » Sat Dec 27, 2014 10:31 pm

I have some mixed feelings, although I liked it more than most. I feel like Jolie is making an honest attempt here at dealing with Christian themes of redemption and sacrifice and transcendence. It's not something you see too often in a mainstream film, but it has to be dealt with if you're going to make an honest portrait of Louis Zamperini, and overall I think the movie does a very solid job of dealing with these things, especially in a way that is mindful of the fact that most of the audience is secular. But I also know the real story, the story of Zamperini's post-war life (reduced to a subtitle here), and I feel like that post-war struggle--and Zamperini's eventual redemption and his forgiveness of his captors--is what makes the whole story significant. BJ asks what makes the story one worth telling? I can kind of see where he was coming from. As it is we see a guy with remarkable resilience who survives things that I doubt I could've ever survived, but I feel like that final act would've really put it in a more meaningful context. If I had been writing and directing, I would've framed the entire narrative around the post-war life and flashed back to him growing up and going through the war.

Big credit to the casting people here: The actors who they found for the young versions of Louis and his brother are dead-ringers; Also Jack O'Connell, who I'd never seen in anything before (will be watching Starred Up soon) is a real find. He has the magnetism and charisma to anchor that the role requires, and I think he brings more to the character than most actors would have. I hope he doesn't go straight for the action star thing, because he's a solid leading man, at least based on this.

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Re: Unbroken reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Dec 08, 2014 5:33 am

Big Magilla wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:I know that I will sound, to Americans especially, very undemocratic etc, but - this is a movie BY ANGELINA JOLIE! I mean, wake up, you all - how could it have been a masterpiece? And before you attack me - just repeat: this is a movie... BY ANGELINA JOLIE. I don't need to say more.

Ah, but to paraphrase an old movie title, The Golden Globes Are Coming! The Golden Globes Are Coming! - Angelina's last chance at a pre-Oscar nod could be this Thursday.

Yes, you might be right - this is certaily Golden-Globes-territory, for more than one reason. But the Oscars don't always follow the Golden Globes, thank God.

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Re: Unbroken reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Sun Dec 07, 2014 7:55 pm

ITALIANO wrote:I know that I will sound, to Americans especially, very undemocratic etc, but - this is a movie BY ANGELINA JOLIE! I mean, wake up, you all - how could it have been a masterpiece? And before you attack me - just repeat: this is a movie... BY ANGELINA JOLIE. I don't need to say more.

Ah, but to paraphrase an old movie title, The Golden Globes Are Coming! The Golden Globes Are Coming! - Angelina's last chance at a pre-Oscar nod could be this Thursday.

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Re: Unbroken reviews

Postby Sabin » Sun Dec 07, 2014 5:19 pm

Considering that Unbroken looks like a below the line juggernaut, do you think that will be enough to push it into the final whatever? What about Miyavi?
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: Unbroken reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sun Dec 07, 2014 3:28 pm

I know that I will sound, to Americans especially, very undemocratic etc, but - this is a movie BY ANGELINA JOLIE! I mean, wake up, you all - how could it have been a masterpiece? And before you attack me - just repeat: this is a movie... BY ANGELINA JOLIE. I don't need to say more.

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Re: Unbroken reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sun Dec 07, 2014 2:09 pm

I don't really have that much to say about Unbroken. It's professionally made, very well-meaning, and inoffensive. I also found it completely lacking in any kind of spark, and felt bored watching much of it.

If The Theory of Everything is a movie where every scene felt familiar as it played out, Unbroken is the kind of movie where you're able to easily predict the next beat in the film before it even happens. When you think, this would be the moment when a shark is going to pop out of nowhere and surprise everyone...ta-da, there's your shark. When a character says "I have good news..." you know exactly how he's going to finish that sentence. When a door opens in the distance, you know exactly which character is going to walk right through it. And so on, and so on. It all seems engineered in a way that feels hopelessly predictable to anyone who's ever seen a movie before.

There's also a larger problem the filmmakers fail to address -- why is this even a story? I've not read Hillenbrand's book -- given the acclaim she's received over her career, I'm assuming she found a lot more insight in the material. But, like the last Hillenbrand screen adaptation, whatever may have been compelling about the subject matter on the page has just been morphed into something tremendously generic on screen. Aside from the fact that the protagonist is a famous Olympian, what's remotely special about this tale as told in the film version? It's a generic war movie, and then it's a generic lost-at-sea movie, and then it's a generic POW prison movie. (And, I have to say I found this latter portion of the film nearly endless -- it just keeps repeating the same beat over and over and over again until the Allies FINALLY win the war.)

I don't think this is going to do too well at the Oscars -- it's just SO square. The other historical movies, aside from just being BETTER, have far more relevant cultural cache, from the timelier-than-they-should-be racial struggles in Selma to the gay content in The Imitation Game. Neither of those movies feel like they could have been made 50 years ago, whereas Unbroken just feels ancient. Maybe it gets a few tech nominations -- this is the most boring score of Alexandre Desplat's career, so it'll probably get in. There are some pretty pictures, too, so Cinematography is a solid prospect as well. I just really hope the press don't gripe too much about Angelina Jolie being excluded for what is obviously such a milquetoast effort.

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Unbroken reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Dec 01, 2014 5:35 pm

Overlooked because NY took our focus this morning: these reviews appeared overnight. General feel: the film doesn't reset the seasonal awards table.


Impeccable craftsmanship and sober restraint have been brought to bear on “Unbroken,” Angelina Jolie’s beautifully wrought but cumulatively underwhelming portrait of Louis Zamperini, the Olympic runner-turned-U.S. Air Force bombardier who spent 47 days lost at sea and more than two years as a prisoner of the Japanese military during WWII. In re-creating the nightmarish journey so harrowingly relayed in Laura Hillenbrand’s biography, Jolie has achieved something by turns eminently respectable and respectful to a fault, maintaining an intimate, character-driven focus that, despite the skill of the filmmaking and another superb lead performance from Jack O’Connell, never fully roars to dramatic life. A bit embalmed in its own nobility, it’s an extraordinary story told in dutiful, unexceptional terms, the passionate commitment of all involved rarely achieving gut-level impact.

With a major awards push for Jolie and her topnotch collaborators — d.p. Roger Deakins, composer Alexandre Desplat and editors Tim Squyres and William Goldenberg not least among them — Universal should be able to court a sizable worldwide audience for this capably stirring, morally unambiguous and classically polished prestige picture about an unusually spirited member of the Greatest Generation who survived a hell beyond anyone’s imagination. (Zamperini died in July at the age of 97, due to complications from pneumonia.) After languishing in development for decades, the project finally took viable shape with the 2010 publication of Hillenbrand’s book, adapted here by the unlikely team of the Coen brothers (in their third scripting-for-hire gig, after 2012’s “Gambit” and 1985’s “Crimewave”), Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson.

Regardless of their individual contributions, none of the credited writers faced an easy or enviable task in fashioning a feature-length narrative out of their exhaustively researched source material (for which Hillenbrand interviewed Zamperini 75 times over the course of eight years). In runners’ parlance, “Unbroken” feels like a good, steady 10k where a marathon was arguably called for: For all its scenes of intense deprivation and extreme brutality, the film never quite manages, over the course of 137 carefully measured minutes, to reproduce the feeling of a sustained endurance test. Nor does it succeed in dramatizing the human need for faith and forgiveness, one of its more baldly stated themes, in more than perfunctory, platitudinous terms.

Of course, to expect any movie to place the viewer directly into Zamperini’s spiked cleats, or even begin to approximate the depth and horror of his wartime experiences, would hold it to an impossible standard. Yet the bar is set unreasonably high from the moment “Unbroken” introduces itself as “a true story,” a presumptuous choice of words (the “based on” qualifier is conspicuously absent) that the script never fully earns as it guides us through a series of conventional, connect-the-dots flashbacks. An exciting aerial-combat prologue finds O’Connell’s Louis — or Louie, as he was more commonly known — flying a rickety B-24 bomber over the Pacific, where he and his comrades drop their payload on Japanese bases, shoot down Zero planes and take plenty of fire in return.

In short order we’re introduced to Louie’s younger self (a perfectly cast C.J. Valleroy), a restless, often bullied and misunderstood kid from Torrance, Calif., whose trouble-making antics give his Italian immigrant parents (Maddalena Ischiale, Vincenzo Amato) no shortage of grief. Yet his older brother Pete (played at different ages by John D’Leo and Alex Russell) soon recognizes that Louie’s talent of getting himself in and out of various scrapes has made him an uncommonly fast runner, and before long the kid is not just a high-school track star but a local legend, hailed in the papers as “the Tornado of Torrance.”

“A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory,” Pete tells his brother, in one of those handy, endlessly recyclable nuggets of thematic wisdom that will resonate just a few short scenes later, when 19-year-old Louie makes it to the 1936 Berlin Olympics and places a not-too-shabby eighth in the 5,000-meter race. Although there’s a brief glimpse of Jesse Owens (Bangalie Keita) and swastika flags, foreshadowing events on the not-too-distant horizon, the film notably omits such juicy details as Louie’s brief handshake with Hitler, focusing instead on the lad’s quicksilver ability to defy the odds, to evince a sudden burst of speed or stamina when it counts most — whether that means overtaking his more seasoned opponents on the track, or surviving the horrific ordeal that awaits him on May 27, 1943.

On that day, a B-24 crashes into the Pacific, killing eight men aboard and leaving Louie stranded at sea with his pilot, Capt. Russell Alan “Phil” Phillips (Domhnall Gleeson), and tail gunner, Sgt. Francis “Mac” McNamara (Finn Wittrock). Bobbing along in two life rafts with dwindling rations, fending off attacks by neighboring sharks and Japanese bombers (at one point simultaneously), the three men will last more than a month before Mac succumbs, leaving Phil and Louie to drift, sun-scorched and emaciated, for another 15 days or so. Yet the film’s attempts to convey the slow, arduous passage of time feel rushed and noncommittal, effectively cherry-picking the book’s more memorable nautical setpieces and adding a few temporal markers (“Day 18,” etc.), quick visual dissolves and the stately swells of Desplat’s score. Following a recent wave of intensely immersive survival stories (“All Is Lost” makes a particularly instructive comparison), “Unbroken’s” streamlined, checklist-style approach seems all the more rote and obligatory.

The sense that we’re getting the slightly watered-down version persists when Louie and Phil fall into Japanese hands and are sent to Omori, a POW camp in Tokyo. The two friends are forcibly separated, and for the film’s remaining hour or so, Louie will have a far less welcome companion in the form of Mutsuhiro Watanabe (Miyavi), aka “the Bird,” a terrifyingly sadistic Japanese army sergeant who immediately takes a special interest in this quietly defiant American prisoner, in whom he sees a flickering shadow of his own ferocious life force. Yet Watanabe’s affection manifests itself in the most brutal possible way, as he beats his favorite mercilessly with a kendo stick for minor or nonexistent infractions (the camera rarely flinches even when our hero does), at one point even forcing the other prisoners to line up and punch Louie in the face for no reason, one by one.

Jolie previously examined the dehumanization of war in her little-seen 2011 directing debut, “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” a muddled but provocative drama set in 1990s Bosnia-Herzegovina. “Unbroken” serves up a similarly relentless catalog of wartime woes — filthy conditions, crippling thirst and hunger, back-breaking labor, nonstop verbal and physical abuse, nasty injuries, ritualized humiliations, and the hopeless knowledge that an Allied victory will only bring about the prisoners’ execution. Yet there’s something unmistakably soft-edged, if not sanitized, about these PG-13 horrors, the accrual of which produces a curious sort of paradox by film’s end: What we’ve seen is at once plenty grueling and nowhere near grueling enough, on the basis of what Zamperini really went through. (“Where’re the maggots? Where’s the dysentery?” my screening companion whispered over the closing credits, unsatisfied by a relatively tasteful scene of Louie and his fellow inmates disposing of their presumably disease-ridden excrement.)

Any dramatic account of real-life events must of course filter and condense, yet several omissions in “Unbroken” are especially telling: We’re denied any real sense of the young Louie’s insatiable appetite for mischief; nor do we see him and his comrades conversing in secret code, or paying hilariously flatulent tribute to Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, or conceiving a desperate plot to murder Watanabe — or, barring that, inducing a crippling bout of diarrhea that puts the miserable sergeant out of commission for more than a week. Jolie sensitively conveys the solemn intimacy and tender camaraderie that arise among men at war, but she never captures these soldiers in all their bawdy, rough-and-tumble vigor and rebellious energy; nor does she evoke the fire in Zamperini’s belly that made him not just a survivor but a natural-born leader, his instincts and intellect as nimble as his feet.

To its credit, the movie doesn’t shy away from showing Louie praying his way through much of his ordeal, at one point promising to dedicate his life to God in the unlikely event that he survived. (He did, and he did.) Indeed, “Unbroken” is not above turning its subject into a sort of 20th-century Christ figure, namely when the Bird forces Louie to lift a heavy beam over his shoulders and hold the position for what feels like hours on end. Yet the dramatic seeds that are planted here never fully take root: Zamperini’s post-rescue conversion and his subsequent attempts at a moral reckoning with his captors are dispensed with in the closing titles, leaving you blinking at the unrealized potential of a longer, bolder and more spiritually inquisitive movie than this one.

Where Jolie’s restraint pays off is in her keenly concentrated focus on Louie’s interior journey; there is a brief cutaway to the distressed Zamperini family at a logical point in the narrative, but little in the way of contextualizing dates and details, and only the barest of allusions to the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the war draws to a close. All in all, given its subject, “Unbroken” is a remarkably quiet picture; the men’s dialogue exchanges tend toward the terse and sardonic, while the silences are often freighted with tension and anxiety, and Jolie wisely lets much of the drama play out in her actors’ unfailingly eloquent faces.

It’s been a while since a young male performer seized the screen with such startling force as O’Connell, whom festival and arthouse audiences may know from his excellent performances in the recent “Starred Up” and the forthcoming “’71.” The conception of his character here may leave something to be desired, but O’Connell’s acting has rarely been more soulful or delicate: Once more he has placed his extraordinary physicality in service of an intensely demanding role, requiring him to run like the wind, stand as still as a stone and undergo any number of weight fluctuations in between. Yet it’s also a performance built from innumerable fine-grained details — a suddenly clenched posture or a quickly downturned glance, to name two of Louie’s natural responses whenever the Bird appears.

Miyavi, a Japanese singer-songwriter making his bigscreen debut, was a smartly counterintuitive choice for the role, and if he never quite nails the perverse sexual rapture that Watanabe derives from the abuse he dishes out, the actor more than upholds his half of the film’s sinister psychological duet. (He also may help stir his fans’ interest in a picture whose matter-of-fact treatment of Japanese brutality will require especially careful handling in Asian markets.) Gleeson, going blond for a change, is excellent as the faithful friend who serves as an occasional spiritual guide to Louie; of the other soldier roles, Garrett Hedlund has the most substantial screen time as Louie’s ally Cmdr. John Fitzgerald.

Whether shooting on land, in air or at sea (with Australian locations ably standing in for all three), Deakins delivers unsurprisingly beautiful images of exceptional richness and clarity. The visuals achieve a particularly vivid sense of place in production designer Jon Hutman’s meticulous re-creations of Omori and Naoetsu, the camp to which Zamperini was transferred in March 1945; no less impressive is the fluidity of the camerawork in and around the tight interiors of the B-24s, enhanced considerably by the input of adviser Bob Livingstone. Even when the characters’ faces and bodies are smudged with blood, mud, soot and worse, the technical package is never short of immaculate.

Hollywood Reporter
by Todd McCarthy
The Bottom Line
A well acted and visualized, if not fully rendered, telling of a fine book and a great life.

A great true story is telescoped down to a merely good one in Unbroken. After a dynamite first half-hour, Angelina Jolie's accomplished second outing as a director slowly loses steam as it chronicles the inhuman dose of suffering endured by Olympic runner Louie Zamperini in Japanese internment camps during World War II. Wonderfully acted by Jack O'Connell in the leading role and guided with a steady hand by Jolie without unduly inflating the heroics or injecting maudlin cliches, this will be a tough film for some to take. But it also has strong appeal as an extraordinary survival story, and Laura Hillenbrand's first-rate book, which inspired it, has not been on the best-seller lists for four years for nothing. A robust box-office future should be in store at home and abroad.

Jolie's spectacularly noncommercial first feature, the 2011 Bosnian war drama, In the Land of Blood and Honey, nonetheless proved that she could direct, an assertion more than confirmed by the vivid you-are-there opening of Unbroken. Without preamble, the film puts you on board a B-24, one of many sent out on a U.S. bombing raid of a Japanese-held island in the Pacific. There's a real sense of the heaviness of the metal that somehow defies gravity as it grinds through the air, as well as an intense awareness of how all the men, from the guys in the cockpit, to the exposed gunners in their turrets, to the bombardier, Zamperini, depend upon each other to do their jobs. And, as the fast Zeroes approach and start firing on the Americans, the sound and speed of events are both pulse-quickening and sobering reminders of how arbitrary life and death are in combat.

Speed, in fact, is the essence of Zamperini's life, to which flashbacks to his youth in Torrance, Southern California, attest. A little Italian-speaking troublemaker during the Depression, young Louie (a likeable C.J. Valleroy) is pushed by his older brother Pete (first John D'Leo, then Alex Russell) to take up track, where he becomes such a sensation that he eventually makes the 1936 U.S. Olympic team. The scene of the American's race there is exciting, but for some reason Jolie decided to forgo the "Hitler moment" that will be remembered by readers of the book, wherein the Fuhrer and Louie had a brief encounter. Perhaps the director decided this would be distracting, but it's hard not to feel it as a missed opportunity, in that Louie was actually face-to-face with the man who would set off the firestorm that would soon engulf him and the rest of the world.

The brilliantly staged crippled landing of the initial bombing expedition spookily foreshadows a second flight, a search for lost fliers in a patched together plane that, in a harrowing scene, makes a crash landing and breaks up in the middle of the Pacific. The only survivors are Louie, his blond pilot buddy Phil (Domhnall Gleeson) and a new crewman they don't really know, Mac (Finn Wittrock), who array themselves on two yellow life rafts and hope for the best.

The least one can say is that their experience is rather more mundane than, but perhaps equally perilous to, that of the solitary lad lost at sea in Life of Pi. As the merciless sun bears down, the men become crispy red and try to keep talking to maintain their alertness. Sickened by raw gull meat, they are sometimes lucky enough to grab the odd sea creature, prompting Phil to observe that the Japanese eat their fish raw. Sharks swim menacingly around the rafts, and what the men hope is a friendly plane passes by, only to reveal itself as Japanese when it strafes them. Mac expires, but Louie and Phil manage to last 47 days before being picked up by a Japanese warship.

As realistically as the men's deprivations are depicted in the film, the half-hour the film spends at sea simply can't render the sheer, slow agony the book so effectively conveys —the doubts, struggles, delirium, mood swings, surpassing hunger and thirst, and constant sense of peril; surprisingly, the narrative goes a little slack during this central stretch. Still, despite the apparent hopelessness of their situation, Louie's survivor's spirit emerges unmistakably here, a tenacious bond with life he won't easily relinquish. Phil has religion to get him through, Louie merely the memory of his brother's corny slogan, "A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory."

More than one moment of pain awaits him, unfortunately, at his next destination, a jungle hellhole where he and Phil are stashed in separate cells barely big enough to contain them. Unlike Hillenbrand's book, the film is unable to convey the staggering misery they were forced to endure in the form of dysentery and other diseases, infinitesimal rations, enforced silence and perpetual fear. The only sort of punishment Jolie seems confident to present cinematically is of the corporal persuasion, which is what Louie encounters repeatedly at the hands of new camp commandant Wantanabe (Miyavi), nicknamed "The Bird," a malicious sadist who zeroes in on the athletic American from the outset and never lets up, striking him repeatedly with his wooden stick, forcing fellow inmates to hit him in the face and otherwise abusing him for reasons both recreational and deeply twisted.

The large cell block in the new camp allows its inmates to talk, share rumors and otherwise fraternize in a way that takes a lot of the edge off despite their jeopardy. Nothing we see conveys the grave threat the men were constantly under (more than a third of all Allied POWs under the Japanese died in detention, compared to only one per cent under the Germans), and the tension is further alleviated by an interesting but comparatively relaxed interlude in which Louie is urged to broadcast on the radio, which at least serves the purpose of letting America and his family know that he's still alive.

Transferred to yet another camp, Louie is pushed to the virtual breaking point, leading to a climactic scene which, the way Jolie stages it, throws off unmistakable crucifixion reverberations. These don't seem specifically warranted by any other internal dramatic factors even if they do, in fact, relate to the religious conversion Louie underwent postwar, but are detailed in the book but are only mentioned onscreen in a passing end title.

One other great moment from the book that, oddly, doesn't turn up onscreen is the American prisoners noticing a spectacular sight in the far distance, which turns out to be one of the atomic bomb explosions that soon brought the war to an end. It's hard to imagine this wouldn't have made for an arresting, even surreal visual interlude.

What Jolie succeeds in doing to a substantial degree is representing her hero's physical ordeal and his tenacious refusal to give up when it would have been very easy to do so. What she and her more than estimable quarter of screenwriters — Joel and Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson — have not entirely pulled off is dramatizing the full range of Louie's internal suffering, emotional responses and survival mechanisms. Nor have they made any of the secondary characters pop from the anonymous background of prisoner extras. In the great old studio days of the 1930s, writers, directors and and actors knew how to give supporting roles real character and sharp identities within a few seconds; such is emphatically not the case here.

Just recently recognized outside the U.K. due to his work in Starred Up and 300: Rise of An Empire, O'Connell is a pleasure to watch at all times here. He has energy, seems watchful and resourceful by instinct, is open to others and, crucially, seems like a man who, even when he doesn't necessarily win, will nonetheless prevail. Always able to roll with the punches, physical and otherwise, he looks and sometimes behaves like a lively terrier.

The flashy role of the dreaded Bird is charismatically filled by Japanese singer Miyavi. Jolie could have done a bit more to build up the character's mythology and the sense of dread he imparts. But the young actor, working mostly in English, has a beauty and good sense of timing that serve him well in this malevolent part.

The substantial aviation material looks quite real, no matter how effects-generated it may be, and Roger Deakins' cinematography has a rugged elegance that, combined with the general play of light and dark, gives the film a richly satisfying palette. Jon Hutman's production design and Louise Frogley's costume designs display a proper sense of period verisimilitude as well as good, clean lines.

Screen Daily
By John Hazelton

Dir: Angelina Jolie. US. 2014. 137mins

With some big names behind the camera and lesser known talents on screen, Angelina Jolie’s eagerly anticipated Unbroken turns out to be a somber and reverential – perhaps a bit too reverential for its own dramatic good – account of the early life of Louie Zamperini, the American Olympic athlete who survived more than two years in World War II Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. Already being seen as a leading Oscar contender thanks to its impressive pedigree and uplifting true story, this lengthy drama will probably need awards season help if is to become more than a mid-level box officer performer.

Global distributor Universal has opted for a wide US release (with a PG-13 rating) on Christmas Day, pitting the film against Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper and other adult-oriented awards contenders. A multinational cast should help during the film’s international rollout early in the new year but the World War II theme might still be a tricky sell.

Joel and Ethan Coen, Richard Lagravanese and William Nicholson all helped shape a script based on Laura Hillenbrand’s eponymous best-selling – and widely translated — book about Zamperini, who died last July at 97.

Beginning with a thrillingly shot air battle involving Zamperini (played by the UK’s Jack O’Connell) and the rest of the crew of a US bomber, the film intercuts airborne action footage with scenes from its subject’s early life: a wayward childhood as the son of Italian immigrants in California, his emergence as a promising runner and an appearance at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The crash of the crew’s plane over the Pacific leads to a lengthy segment with Zamperini and two fellow airmen adrift in a raft and barely surviving attacks by sharks and a passing Japanese fighter.

Capture by the Japanese navy leads to another extended segment in a brutal POW camp, where Zamperini first encounters a Japanese commander (played by the Japanese musician known as Miyavi) who takes a sadistic interest in his famous American captive. Transfer to another camp, with the same commander in charge, results in even more brutal treatment for the prisoners (played by, among others, Australia’s Jai Courtney and the UK’s Luke Treadaway). The story ends when the war ends and Zamperini returns to the US.

Directing her second dramatic feature, Jolie doesn’t vary the pace or tone much during the raft and camp sequences and while she mostly avoids POW movie cliches she doesn’t find much to put in their place to explain Zamperini’s fortitude (early hints that religious faith played a part are not followed up on).

O’Connell (who got noticed last year in British crime drama Starred Up) and Miyavi both show considerable promise, though it remains to be seen whether they attract their own awards season attention. More likely, perhaps, is that voters will respond to the film’s behind the scenes contributors, among them Roger Deakins, whose cinematography gives Unbroken a satisfyingly classical feel, and composer Alexandre Desplat, who provides a sparse but effective score.

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