Unbroken, the much talked about film helmed by Angelina Jolie, is hitting Australian cinemas this week.
This is the true story (based on a book) of Louis “Louie” Zamperini and his survival in a Japanese prison camp. In the beginning, we get to see a young rebellious Zamperini always being defiant and in trouble. Under the guide of his brother, he channels his energy into running which resulted in him competing in the 1936 Olympics. During World War II, Louie enlisted in the military, setting off a chain of events that are focused on in this movie. After his plane crashes in the Pacific, he and his friend survives 47 days in a raft, until they are captured by the Japanese who send them to a POW camp.
The story begins with an intense and superbly created mid-air combat, and while it’s clear that this is a dangerous situation, there is still a sense of “it’s just another day at the job” for the characters. This is further confirmed by what follows after landing – the guys joking around at a beautiful and peaceful location.
The tone of the film in the beginning is slightly cheeky while also maintaining a bleak element, which the cinematography reflects by accompanying images of these men suffering with stunning scenery. This is especially evident during their time lost at sea. Signifying hope and strength to the audience even in such horrible circumstances. The tone immediately changes when Louie and his friend get captured and placed in a Japanese prison camp. The film takes on a much darker edge, which only grows darker as the story progresses.
Angelina Jolie doesn’t hide away from showing brutality, while it’s depicted in a somewhat sensitive manner, it could be hard to watch for those who can’t tolerate violence and torture. Louie does experience a never ending run of bad luck and succession of torments at the hands of “The Bird” in this story. As a viewer, you might think the tortures and bad luck can’t get any worse after each turn, but you would be wrong. They do.
For those that have read the book, Jack O’Connell not only transformed physically but captured the defiant spirit of Louie, however through no fault of his own; his feelings and thoughts at the prison camp are not conveyed enough. His resilience and strength are focused on but not much behind how he got to that point. For this reason, as an audience member it’s less likely that one will feel as strong of an emotional connection with Louie as expected. Although, it is a possibility that this was done on purpose to allow equal sympathy for all prisoners.
Ishihara Takamasa (aka Miyavi) plays “The Bird” – the ruthless prison commander. I can see why Jolie insisted on Ishihara playing this role; his presence is very commanding on screen. This is a man with a gentle looking face playing a merciless sadomasochistic person, a combination most people would not expect. He plays such a complex character so well that once he (slight spoiler alert) exits the prison camp, you’ll want him to come back.
To the credit of the film makers, Unbroken easily could have turned into what seemed like 2 separate movies glued together, due to the different storylines throughout the 137 minutes. Thankfully, the scrip flows smoothly without anything seeming out of place.
Unbroken doesn’t cover everything that is in the book, we don’t see Louie’s initial obsession with wanting to take revenge on his tormentor. Instead, we see him later in life where has forgiven “The Bird”. Jolie claimed that she wanted to make this movie about forgiveness, and a story that could bring America and Japan closer together – because that’s what Zamperini wanted. In that, she succeeded. It is a beautifully layered film which strongly focuses on the strength of the human spirit. This is a movie that will leave you questioning whether you could survive and forgive.
I give it 8 out of 10 stars.
Unbroken opens in cinemas tomorrow. Have a listen to our interview with Miyavi here.