Unbroken Review
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Earlier this fall, Brad Pitt starred as a World War II tank commander in Fury. Now, Pitt’s new bride, Angelina Jolie, takes her own look at the Second World War as the director of Unbroken, the story of one man’s wartime battle for survival against both human and natural adversaries.

Unbroken tells the astonishing true story of Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), an Olympic runner who found himself in dire circumstances during the war. While serving as a bombardier in the Air Force, Zamperini and his crew were sent out on a rescue mission—but before they could find the missing aircraft, their own plane crashed into the ocean, killing all but three men. Day after day, the three survivors battled the elements and fought to survive—not knowing that their eventual rescue would also be their capture.

Zamperini’s life story is one of training and triumph followed by persecution and perseverance. Unfortunately, though, the film focuses mostly on the latter—on the suffering that he was forced to endure during the war. It seems as though Jolie was so determined to fit in every devastating experience—every recollection of these years of hardship—that she was forced to trim the background quite heavily. And, in the process, she traded the excitement of Zamperini’s Olympic career for the often drawn-out drama of his days lost at sea.

Of course, the story does offer a few brief glimpses of the character’s youth—of his troubled childhood, his days on the school’s track team, and his appearance at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin—but they’re seen in flashbacks, scattered rather haphazardly through the early parts of the film. And although they help to ground things a bit—to give viewers a sense of Zamperini’s history and his character—these few short scenes aren’t enough to build a strong attachment to the character. As a result, the film is brutal and often gut-wrenching, but it’s not especially emotional. And that’s a missed opportunity here—because the story of a former Olympian who sacrificed and suffered for his country should be a powerful one, yet it isn’t until the very end of the film that it provides a few moving moments.

Unbroken tells a remarkable true story—and it does so in great detail. It often feels so real, in fact, that you might find yourself feeling sorry for the actors. But, in focusing on the devastating details of Zamperini’s wartime experiences, Jolie sacrifices some of the heart, resulting in a revealing but surprisingly reserved drama.

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