When I heard the Coen brothers had written the screenplay for Unbroken, I got excited. When I found out they were just behind one of several drafts... well... let's just say things changed.
Unbroken is a crazy true story about an Olympic athlete, Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell), who crash-landed in the Pacific in WWII. After an incredible 47 days stranded on a life raft he was picked up by enemy troops and transported to a Japanese prison camp... what happens there and Zamperini's resolve to survive without losing himself or his beliefs is truly amazing.
Jack O'Connell is quite compelling here. He brings that exact survivor quality that other characters refer to, and his performance breathes and zings when it needs to. He is the National Board of Review's choice for breakthrough performance and while I'd still like to catch Starred Up... I can fully understand why they'd give him such a credit based solely on this performance. Domhnall Gleeson gets the short end of the stick here, but still manages to make it work. He's just an interesting actor. Everything I've seen out of him of late has been at the very least entertaining. Then there's Takamasa Ishihara. Damn did I enjoy his performance as The Bird. He's both despicable and alluring at the same time. And I've gotta wonder how long it'll be before we get another flick out of him. The cast here is great.
However, Angelina Jolie's film fails to separate itself from other POW flicks and unfortunately falters on its own expectations. While Zamperini's story is in fact quite extraordinary, the film in question maneuvers through those events according to practically the same pacing and formula of at least twenty films to come before it... but without the style of say Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence or the perspective of The Railwayman... which I actually do think is a better overall POW film to come out of the 2014 season. This is a prime example of what I call a "handsome film"... It is exactly the kind of thing people expect to see come award season, but it likely won't be remembered in 20 years time.