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Unbroken Review

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

Unbroken - Alternative Trailer

Believe Me Review

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


Unbroken - Teaser Trailer

Picture - Alex Russell , Wednesday 8th February 2012

Alex Russell Wednesday 8th February 2012 at the premiere of Twentieth Century Fox's 'This Means War' held at the Grauman Chinese Theatre

Alex Russell:
Pictures Video Film

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