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Unbroken — film review
From the Financial Times of Tue, 23 Dec 2014 16:01:50 GMT
Unbroken

Jack O'Connell as Louis Zamperini

There is something soul-killing about the title Unbroken. Doesn’t it tell us everything before we’ve bought our tickets? A spoiler in the guise of a salute? A salute to — what else — the human spirit, which in this film and its kin triumphs monotonously in the face of monotonous adversity.

It’s the week’s third true tale (if you count Exodus) of human beings striving to say no to subjugation. But director Angelina Jolie doesn’t seem to know which hat she is wearing. Is it the one labelled “filmmaker,” or United Nations ambassador, or charity multitasker with her good cause of the month? As told here, the story of US prisoner-of-war Louis Zamperini, a one-time Olympic gold-medal runner who fell into enemy hands following 47 days afloat in the Pacific after his plane was downed, is like a two-and-a-half-hour human suffering appeal on the media. “Please give,” after the cajoling footage of horror, pity and tragedy.

Nothing wrong with showing these, nor with explicit portrayals of the cruelty meted out by the Japanese to Allied captives. What’s wrong is a depiction so unvaried it induces torpor, and a “truth” so poorly presented it resembles coercive melodrama. British actor Jack O’Connell (Starred Up ) is fine as Zamperini. But the punishments dispensed in the film could not be survived as shown: action-highlight atrocities shown bumper to bumper. Nor is any glimmer of insight offered into how or why, during the war in Asia and the Pacific, the land of the rising sun became the land of moral midnight.




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