Friday, January 2, 2015

Movie with Abe: Unbroken

Directed by Angelina Jolie
Released December 25, 2014

It’s no easy feat to tell a grand story of survival through impossible circumstances whose outcome is no secret. Even more so, telling one person’s story and making it stand out among so many players in any war is a tall order. The incredible tale of Louis Zamperini, who went from being an Olympic athlete to a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp during World War II, is more than worthy of being made into a film, and in her second directorial effort, Angelina Jolie has done a fitting job of telling it in a respectful and powerful manner.

Trailers for this film made it seem like Louis was an Olympic champion who spent a few hours in a raft after a plane crash in the ocean and then found himself the subject of cruel treatment by a vindictive Japanese official set on breaking his spirit. The first and last parts of that are true, but it’s worth noting that Louis actually spent forty-seven days on the raft with two fellow soldiers. This is not a simple, melodramatic story about overcoming adversity but instead one that works hard to demonstrate everything Louis had thrown at him and how he still worked to stay strong in spite of it all.

One of this year’s undeniable breakout stars is Jack O’Connell, who played a young juvenile delinquent headed down a dark path in “Starred Up.” Here, O’Connell is unrecognizable, cleaning up his hair and his act and donning an American accent to inhabit Louis, whose spirit of optimism is truly what drives the movie. Though his face is hardened with injuries sustained on a regular basis because of his former fame and his captors’ determination to rob him of all hope, Louis is not willing to give up, as enthusiastically conveyed by O’Connell’s endearing performance.

For her first and previous time behind the camera, Jolie chose an ambitious and brutal subject – war and genocide in Bosnia – as her focus, which led to the dark and depressing “In the Land of Blood and Honey.” Her latest film is a far more Hollywood-friendly look at a more publicized war, but it doesn’t compromise grittiness or content in order to appeal to a wider audience. Jolie and the film don’t seem to be getting the credit they deserve for a well-made and impactful look at one man’s will to make it through to the other side.


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