04th May2015

‘Unbroken’ Blu-ray Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Jack O’Connell, Takamasa Ishihara, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Finn Wittrock, Jai Courtney, Maddalena Ischiale, Vincenzo Amato, John Magaro, Luke Treadaway, Louis McIntosh, Jordan Patrick Smith, Spencer Lofranco, Dylan Watson | Written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson | Directed by Angelina Jolie


Hollywood is a whirring machine of marketing, it churns out movies with an expectation of them being hits and an aim of winning awards.  I remember watching the first trailer to Unbroken and using the words “Oscar-bait” with its slick trailer and inspirational patriotic story.  I don’t see this as a bad thing that is how the movie industry works.  When it weakens the impact of the movie though, that is when the focus maybe should have been more on impact and not the art of making a “safe” movie.

Unbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) the bad kid who made good, becoming an Olympic athlete before enlisting to fight in the second world war.  When his plane crashes in the sea he must survive not only being stranded in the middle of the ocean, but also the resultant capture by the Japanese army, internment in their prisoner of war camps and the attention of the bullying presence Mutsuhiro ‘The Bird’ Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara aka Miyavi).

Before I go further I feel the need to state that Unbroken is not a bad movie, far from it.  There is an inspirational story told and the movie has moments where it is able to convey the emotion of the situation that Zamperini found himself in, but only moments.  The problem is instead of giving enough focus on the powerful emotion, Unbroken tends to restrain itself and pull back leaving the audience feeling the impact in a slightly more dulled fashion.  Add to this the fact that the film ends after his return to America and stops short of including the struggles he went through when returning home and having to deal with the psychological wounds he suffered, and I can’t help but feel the dramatic impact and true inspirational story was somewhat missed.  Words on the screen at the end of the movie don’t kind of cut it when his struggle went on for many more years.

On the Blu-ray a documentary is included which looks at the real Louis Zamperini and this is where anybody interested in the man’s story should look for the details and reality of his situation.   When he returned home post-traumatic stress disorder affected him for many years, with the horrors he faced during his time in the camps haunting him for many years.  This led him to alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate, resulting as it always does in him finding himself in a very dark place.  The fact he found faith and belief, helping him to be able to forgive the people who imprisoned him, thus helping himself deal with his past is the true inspirational story of the man.  You don’t have to be religious to respect a person who found belief in a system that not only helped him, but led him to help many others in the process.  That is the truth inspirational side of his story.

Even though I would have liked to see this time in his life included in this story, we do have to remember that as a movie there is only a certain amount can be stuffed into the time allocated.  This does raise the question whether the story of Louis Zamperini should have been more of a mini-series for television and not a big Hollywood movie. One film doesn’t feel like it does justice to his struggle, though in Angelina Jolie’s defence she does give it her best attempt.  Jack O’Connell gives a good performance, as is almost expected of him now as does Takamasa Ishihara as Watanabe.  The intensity in his performance as The Bird has the desired impact.  Every time he enters the scene the change in atmosphere is evident and there is real power in the performance.  It is the chemistry between Ishihara and O’Connell that brings the best moments out of the film.  The real shame of Unbroken is that these moments never amount to much more than that, just moments.  Unbroken is a movie that rarely takes risks, not really hitting the audience hard with the emotions that are required to truly make an impact.  We may see the horrors that Zamperini endured but the emotion and psychological impact never really hits where it really needs to.

Unbroken is an interesting movie about an inspirational man.  It led me to want to read more about his life, to see how much of the story shown in the film is representative of the truth and what had been changed for artistic license.  It’s a shame that the film does plays it safe, as Angelina Jolie does manage to show moments of pushing the movie to what it could potentially have been.  It just feels though like maybe the subject matter or the status of the film itself led to a certain reluctance to take risks and introduce the audience into a much more emotionally impactful story.  If anything at least it gives a good introduction into the story of Zamperini and inspires us to find out much more about the man.  Just a shame that the film itself couldn’t manage to fill in the details it really needs to.

Unbroken is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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