Unbroken: Profile in courage

Unbroken is a respectful and respectable dramatization of the life of Louie Zamperini, the son of Italian immigrants that competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, saw action in the Pacific during World War II, and spent over two years as a prisoner of war in a Japanese prison camp.

Zamperini’s story, which was originally optioned in Hollywood in the 1950s (!), was the basis for Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 non-fiction best-seller, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, which has been adapted by a dream team of heavyweight screenwriters – Joel and Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson (all Oscar winners or nominees) – and directed by Angelina Jolie.

“If you take it, you can make it,” is an adage imparted on young Louie by his brother. The remainder of the film essentially proves it.

Yet for everything, Unbroken has the air of something familiar, something unsurprising.

Jack O’Connell brings the requisite amount of physicality to the role of Zamperini, Jolie’s direction echoes Clint Eastwood (her director in 2008’s Changeling) in its straightforward approach, and ace cinematographer Roger Deakins (11 Oscar nominations and counting) brings his customary expertise to the proceedings.

We know Zamperini’s tough because we see what he goes through, yet it’s never especially rousing or stirring. Unbroken is in no way a bad film, but it’s a curiously mechanical one.

Unbroken opens Christmas Day. !

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