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
The most impressive thing about the sixth entry into this noisy franchise is that it's both more preposterous and more self-important than ever before. Which is no mean feat. The cast and crew clearly went for something bigger and more explosive, but by removing their tongues from their cheeks they leave us laughing at them rather than with them. Even so, some of the crazed action scenes are breathtaking.
The story picks up right where the last one ended: Dominic and Brian (Diesel and Walker) have taken the fortune they grabbed in Rio and started an idyllic life in the Canary Islands. Brian and Dom's sister Mia (Brewster) have even produced an adorable baby. Then US Agent Hobbs (Johnson) appears asking for their help in capturing the villainous Shaw (Evans), who is collecting military technological gadgets for some nefarious purpose. And they agree to go along because Dom's presumed-dead girlfriend Letty (Rodriguez) is working with him. So they reassemble the team (Pataky, Gibson, Bridges, Kang, Gadot and Carano) and get started in London.
Yes, this chapter takes place in Europe, which gives the filmmakers new landmarks to race past in their elaborately orchestrated chase sequences, throwing cars like toys at every plate-glass window in sight. The first night-time set-piece in London is fairly incoherent (and nonsensical), but things get better from there, with a whizzy bit of competitive driving for Dom and Letty and a few other showdowns before the action moves to Spain for a couple of massive, gob-smacking action sequences that would boggle the mind if we thought for a second that they were even marginally possible.
Continue reading: Fast & Furious 6 Review
This overlong comedy is so episodic that watching it is exactly like sitting through five episodes of a sitcom back-to-back. It's funny and enjoyable, with characters we enjoy watching, but they continually spiral back to where they started, and in the end we feel like there's been a lot of fuss about nothing. Even so, the script offers plenty of hilarious observational humour, and the cast is thoroughly entertaining.
Reprising their roles from Knocked Up, Rudd and Mann play Debbie and Pete, who turn 40 within a week of each other. But Debbie isn't coping very well with it, and her emotions swing wildly from steamy lust to fiery rage while Pete just tries to hang on. Their daughters (played by Apatow and Mann's real daughters Maude and Iris) each have their own issues to stir into the mix. And then Pete's needy father (Brooks) turns up with problems of his own, forcing Debbie to think about her own distant father (Lithgow). Meanwhile, the economic crunch is causing problems for both of their businesses.
Yes, both of them own businesses. This is not the typical struggling 40-something couple, so it's not easy to sympathise with many of their issues. Fortunately, Apatow's dialog is packed with brazen honesty and an appreciation for rude gags that keep us laughing even in the absence of an actual storyline we can get involved in (although there's one major plot point along the way). Rudd and Mann were arguably the best thing in Knocked Up, so it's great to let them take the spotlight here, making the most of their sparky interaction. And aside from experts like Brooks and Lithgow, there is a continual stream of superb side roles, including Fox as Debbie's oversexed and possibly embezzling employee and McCarthy as a furious school parent (her big scene is expanded into a brilliantly improvised outtake riff in the closing credits).
Continue reading: This Is 40 Review
Wendi McLendon-Covey, Barry Mendel, Clayton Townsend, Ellie Kemper, Matt Lucas, Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy - Annie Mumolo, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Director Paul Feig, udd Apatow, Ellie Kemper, Maya Rudolph, Barry Mendel, Clayton Townsend, Melissa McCarthy and Matt Lucas Thursday 12th January 2012 17th Annual Critic's Choice Movie Awards - Pressroom