With a true story that's almost hard to believe, this inspiring biographical drama is made with attention to detail and a remarkable resistance to sentiment. And strong acting helps bring the characters to life, even if everything feels a little too carefully staged. But it's the real-life aspect that grabs the attention, and a central figure who's a remarkable example of the indomitable human spirit. The film also marks an auspicious step forward for Angelina Jolie as a director, telling a big story without giving in to the usual sappy moviemaking pitfalls.
Son of Italian immigrants, Louie Zamperini (Jack O'Connell) grew up in 1920s Southern California and by the time he hit his teens is on the way to becoming a criminal. But his brother Pete (Alex Russell) helps him channel his energy to running instead, and his natural skill make him a local champion as well as an American record-holder at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. When the war breaks out, he enlists and serves as a bombardier in the Pacific, surviving a plane crash before later going down at sea and drifting with two colleagues (Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock) for 47 days before being captured by the Japanese. From here he endures a horrific stint in a prisoner of war camp, taunted by the cruel commandant everyone calls The Bird (Miyavi), who takes particular notice of Louie simply because he refuses to break.
Jolie assembles the film as a big-budget epic, with massive set pieces as the plot cycles through several outrageous episodes before settling in on the prison years. Cinematographer Roger Deakins carefully contrasts Louie's sunny California youth with the much starker visit to Nazi Germany and the astoundingly bleak Japanese prison camp, with those endless days baking at sea in the middle. So the film looks terrific, drawing us into each chapter in Louie's story while building a sense of momentum. It's not quite as complex as it looks; Louie's darker moments feel a bit superficial. But O'Connell adds some weight to each scene, offering a kick of emotion as well as the charisma that convinces the men around him to draw inspiration from his tenacity.
Continue reading: Unbroken Review
Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell) is a rebel. His constant fights and reckless behaviour cause more than enough trouble for his family. They believe he will amount to nothing, despite his incredible ability to never give in - no matter what. When he applies himself to running, he discovers that he is very good at it. More than that; Zamperini is great and competes in the Olympic Games. When World War Two begins, Zamperini enlists in the US Air Force, but is shot down by Japanese planes. Captured and placed in a Prisoner of War camp, Zamperini is forced to apply his will and drive in order to make it through the toughest ordeal of his life.
Continue: Unbroken - Alternative Trailer
A knowing, very sharp script gives this comedy a very strong kick as it tells a story about interlopers in America's Christian subculture. It would have been easy to either take cheap potshots or veer into inspirational sentimentality, but the filmmakers cleverly navigate a middle ground that refuses to simplify either the morality or the message. It's a lively, entertaining romp with real bite.
The film opens in Austin, Texas, where Sam (Alex Russell) is stunned to learn that he won't graduate and go to law school unless he pays $9,000 in overdue fees. Then he gets an idea from a Christian youth group raising funds for a mission trip to Hawaii: why not start a charity funding wells in Africa and keep some of the cash for himself? He enlists the help of his three best friends (Miles Fisher, Max Adler and Sinqua Walls), and before they know it they're headlining major events to adoring crowds across the country. This rock-star life is very lucrative too, especially as they continue to learn better ways to convince the crowd that they're true believers. But as the moral high ground becomes swamped by all that cash, they begin to have their doubts.
It's clear that writer-director Will Bakke and cowriter Michael B. Allen know only too well what they're talking about, as the film cuts a razor-like swathe right through church culture, from repetitive worship songs and cliche-ridden prayers to Christian-targeted movies. Even more pointed is the way the film deals with the vast amounts of money that have essentially turned the fundamentalist church in America into a mega-corporation that knows exactly how to deploy right-wing political sloganeering to get their followers on their feet cheering. These issues are actually integral to the story, as Sam and his friends discover the secrets to helping Christians feel better about themselves as they part with their cash.
Continue reading: Believe Me Review
Louis Zamperini has learned to fight tooth and nail for what he believes in all through life. It may have caused him one or two problems with the law in his youth, but it taught him that to achieve success, he must fight harder than anyone else. It's with this attitude that he joins his school track team, eventually surpassing the sprinting talents of all the local sportsmen. He lands a place on the US 5000 metres team for the 1936 Berlin Olympics before disaster strikes. It's World War II and America has become involved with the conflict; Louis must put his promising running career on hold in order to joined the US Army Air Force and defend his country. But he is faced with new challenges when he and his comrades find themselves adrift on the Pacific Ocean following a devastating plane crash. Unfortunately for them, waiting on the land ahead at Japanese soldiers who inter him and his peers in a Tokyo prison. What he subsequently displays during his time there is a remarkable show of strength of character, fearlessness and an unwavering courage that would touch millions.
Louis Zamperini may have been a wayward child, constantly getting into trouble with the local authorities, but he would soon grow up to be an inspiration to people across the world. At a young age he joined his school's track team and eventually went on to land a place on the US 5000 metres team during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. However, as World War II hit the globe, he put his sporting career on hold to protect his country as a member of the US Army Air Force which subsequently saw him and his comrades captured by the Japanese army as prisoners of war after their plane crashed and they were adrift on the Pacific Ocean for 47 days. Louis' incredible determination and strength of character helped him pull through his ordeals and tell his story to the world and now, at the age of 97, he re-tells it for the big screen.
Continue: Unbroken - Teaser Trailer
Alex Russell, Cynthia Preston, Judy Greer, Julianne Moore, Kimberly Peirce, Chloe Grace Moretz and Portia Doubleday - "Carrie" Los Angeles Premiere Held at The ArcLight Hollywood - Hollywood, California, United States - Tuesday 8th October 2013