The fight of his life
UNBROKEN ( M)
Director: Angelina Jolie ( In the Land of Blood and Honey)
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Takamasa Ishihara, Domhnall Gleeson, Finn Wattrock
Verdict: He can’t run, he can’t hide, but can he endure?
ADAPTED from the 2010 bestselling book by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken is a demanding true story of survival set primarily in the later years of World War II.
As the film begins, it is 1943, and American artillery loader Louis Zamperini ( Jack O’Connell) is inside a B- 24 bomber under heavy fire from Japanese Zero fighters high over the Pacific.
This gripping sequence – expertly shot by ace cinematographer Roger Deakins – immediately captures a stoic resilience under extreme duress in Zamperini that will be crucial in the years to follow.
At the height of the tumult, director Angelina Jolie cuts to Zamperini’s earlier life, where he rose to fame as an accomplished distance runner who represented his country with distinction at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Though this deceptively placid sequence of scenes is at odds with what will transpire in the rest of the film – and sacrifices much of the dramatic momentum already earned – it does add some necessary depth to our understanding of Zamperini which will prove most useful later on.
Upon returning to the skirmish in the Pacific, Zamperini’s plane crashes into the sea, leaving only three survivors. The trio push on in an open life raft for a further month, enduring several devastating life- and- death situations before an inevitable capture by the Japanese.
Once relocated to a POW camp, it is not long before Zamperini becomes the dangerous fixation of camp sergeant Mutsuhiro Watanabe ( played by Japanese pop singer Takamasa Ishihara).
Known to inmates as ‘ The Bird’, Watanabe is a proudly sadistic overseer who is aware of Zamperini’s past as a decorated athlete, and makes it his mission to break the will of his celebrity charge.
The relentless brutality depicted in this final section of Unbroken could prove to be too much for some viewers. On this level, the film shares much in common with 2013’ s Australian- produced The Railway Man.
Luckily, Jolie’s acute sensitivity to the ordeal suffered by Zamperini and his fellow prisoners isolates an indomitable spirit that carries ( and when needs be, comforts) her audience through some very tough going.
If there is one flaw to Unbroken, it is that the 135- minute running time is too generous considering the relatively straightforward nature of the script ( co- written by the Coen Brothers), so impatient viewers beware.
Now showing Village Cinemas ( Eastlands only) and the State Cinema