“A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.”
Directed by Angelina Jolie, Unbroken focuses on the inspiring true story of Olympic winning medalist, Louis Zamperini, who later went on to serve during World War II going through all kinds of hardships. Unbroken opens with an incredibly strong action scene (which might be the best in the movie) and as the story unfolds we get some flashbacks of Louis’s childhood and upbringing. It is a bit formulaic in the sense that it follows pretty much the same conventions as most biopics have done in the past. One of my favorite quotes in the film is when Louis’s brother tells him that “A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory,” but ironically after getting through this film the quote feels like it works better the other way around, “A moment of glory is worth a lifetime of pain” because Jolie makes sure we witness all the trials that he went through during the War. She focuses more on Louis’s lifetime of pain and only a moment of glory. Unbroken is The Passion of the Christ of war dramas because we experience the hardships that Louis has to go through in a very detailed manner. There is no doubt in my mind that this was an inspirational story, but Jolie spends most of her time going from one scene to the next without ever trying to develop the character or tell us who Louis really was. In other words she tells an inspiring story but doesn’t transmit anything about the man who went through it all. There are several reasons why I did enjoy this film despite its flaws and the first one is because of Roger Deakins’s cinematography which is always outstanding. I could see pretty much any movie that this man shoots. The second reason is because the Coen brothers were involved in the adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling novel. The Coen brothers aren’t as successful when they don’t direct their own screenplays, but this time they had strong material to work with. Hillenbrand is a great writer (Seabiscuit and now Unbroken) and the story is inspirational so there is a lot to like.
The film hooked me from the opening scene where we experience a great action scene from within a bomber aircraft overflying the Pacific Ocean. Then the generic flashbacks began and the film lost some of its potential. Jack O’Connell plays the lead character Louis Zamperini. After his solid performance in Starred Up, O’Connell, is definitely someone worth keeping your eyes on because he’s extremely talented. In Unbroken we see him enduring a great amount of suffering (thus the comparison with The Passion of the Christ) so the film focuses on that aspect instead of giving us any insight on O’Connell’s character. I still think the story is so inspirational that it manages to hook us and captivate us throughout the entire run time. Jolie is interested in simply telling the story so we go from one scene to the next without learning much of who the character’s really are. The opening was fantastic, the scene where the plane crashes into the Ocean and the survivors struggle to survive was also another highlight of the film, and finally the torture he endures as a prisoner of war was inspiring. The technical aspects of the film are fantastic and Deakins cinematography is gorgeous. The supporting performances from Domhnall Gleeson and Miyavi are also very solid. But by the time the end credits start rolling you kind of wish the film had focused on the later aspects of Louis’s life which were perhaps even more inspiring than the torture he endured.