Big talents fail viewer

Renting Reels Blog

By: Kaitlyn McKay, Columnist

The plot of “Unbroken” is an incredible true story of survival. Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), an Olympian, survives in a raft for 47 days during World War II after his plane malfunctions and crashes in the Pacific Ocean. Eventually, he is “rescued” by Japanese soldiers and sent to multiple prisoner of war camps for the remainder of the war.

“Unbroken” is just okay. It’s generic, when it should be anything but, which is odd considering the large amount of talent involved in making the film. The Coen Brothers co-wrote the script, the cinematographer was Roger Deakins (whose recent films include “Prisoners” and “Skyfall”), and Tim Squyres (whose credits include “Life of Pi”) edited the film. All have impressive films on their resume, and Alexandre Desplat (who was nominated for both “The Imitation Game” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” for this year’s Oscars) conducted the musical score. Director Angelina Jolie gathered an impressive team to help make their sophomore film, but even then, “Unbroken” is just safe.

Ultimately, I believe the problem lies in the screenplay. Zamperini is not an interesting character, which is a huge problem since the conflict of the film is the survival of the main character. His only defining personality trait from the other characters is that he’s slightly more brave and honorable than the other characters. The most memorable character in the entire film is not the protagonist, but one of his captors, a Japanese prison commander, Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe. This character, played by Japanese singer-songwriter Miyavi, specifically targets and tortures Zamperini, most likely out of jealousy. The bulk of the movie features Zamperini either in a POW camp, or afloat on a raft. There are two flashback sequences at the beginning of the film, showing his progression from a kid living with his Italian family, to becoming an athlete and finally coming in eighth place in the 1936 Olympics in the 5000m race. These flashbacks never come back later in the film, which makes them seem out of place when looking at the film as a whole.

“Unbroken” ends right as Zamperini is reunited with his family. Everything that affected him afterward, his PTSD, his growing relationship with Christianity and his marriage, are nicely tucked away in cards just before the end credits. However I think that showing how his harsh experiences at war affected him throughout his life, could have made him a more complex and three-dimensional character.

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