Directed by Angelina Jolie and screenplay by the Coen Brothers, Unbroken tells the harrowing true story, which is in turn based on Laura Hillenbrand‘s novel, based on the life of Olympian Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell). After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Louis and fellow crewmen Phil (Domhnall Gleeson) and Fitzgerald (Garrett Hedlund) spend a desperate 47 days in a raft, only to be caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp run by the brutal Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara).
Unbroken is a film that I’ve been anticipating for a while, and that’s because of the talent (or potential talent) involved. With direction from Angelina Jolie, a screenplay adapted by the brilliant Coen Brothers, and a promising performance from the recently impressive Jack O’Connell, Unbroken had all the right people involved to make this one of 2014’s best. And for me, it was.
Earlier in 2014, The Railway Man told a similar true war story, but it missed the mark on so many levels so much so that most won’t even remember its release. Unbroken, however, nails these same characteristics right on the head. It’s a powerful story full of heart, anger, strength, motivation, and passion; an inspirational biography which, although is hard to watch at times, is both heartbreaking and empowering.
Reviewing this after seeing 2015’s true war drama, American Sniper, as well, Unbroken, out of the three, is the one that you need to see. With beautiful cinematography set aside the contrast of tense scenes of torture and desperation and a heart-achingly sad character story, as well as excellent performances all around, Unbroken puts its talents to full use.
Jack O’Connell is absolutely incredible. I was a huge fan of Skins, which saw the actor rise to a small fame, so it’s great to see him doing so well over the past few years. But his performance here is so much more than what we’ve seen recently. We’re used to him playing the chav or the tough guy, but he doesn’t need any of that bravado to make his performance stand out here. Instead, he relies purely on his raw acting talent to give a hugely emotional and powerful performance. The dark hair and olive skin work in his favour, too, not that we should focus solely on that!
Unbroken ends in the only way it should, with a number of clips of the real-life Louis Zamperini which resulted in me leaving the cinema in tears. A story like this needs that personal touch and, even though the film dragged out slightly towards the end, these final scenes pull it together perfectly. I would never have been able to continue my life as he did if I had gone through all of that, but that’s what makes Zamperini such an inspiration, and is what makes his story one worth knowing about.