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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Feb 28, 2015

Review: Unbroken - Lacks Punch And Lacks Heart

IN THE hands of a more capable director, “Unbroken”, based on the true story of a World War II hero, would be Oscar material. After all, the book on which it was based was written by Laura Hillenbrand, who also wrote “Seabiscuit” that was Oscar-nominated. But with Angelina Jolie’s lackluster direction, we’re not surprised it was bypassed by the Academy voters.

A petty thief as a child, Louie Zamperini is the son of Italian immigrants. He later becomes the youngest American runner to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. While on a bombing mission, he’d later survived the crash of his B-24 in the middle of the Pacific Ocean during WWII and 47 days drifting in a life raft with his two companions without food or water and with sharks swimming around.
Then he spends two years as a Prisoner of War in a Japanese concentration camp where he suffers oppression from a cruel tormentor, The Bird (Takamasa Ishihara). But despite all the travails and tribulations he goes through in life, Zamperini remains like the film’s title, “Unbroken”.

Jolie’s movie version is faithful to the book but her treatment lacks heart. We’ve seen other POW movies that are definitely more exciting and more emotionally engaging, like “Bridge on the River Kwai”, “The Great Escape”, “Grand Illusion”, “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence”.

We don’t know if it’s the fault of the screenplay or it’s her own choice, but in telling the story, Jolie uses a clinical approach that lacks punch and catharsis. It’s as if she doesn’t want the viewer to sympathize too much with her main character. The script was penned by no less than four writers the Coen Brothers, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson, so it’s really surprising that the movie lacks emotional involvement and impact. The movie is more than two hours and it has plenty of “boringga” factor.

The cast generally delivers, led by Jack O'Connell as Zamperini. But it is Mutsushiro Watanabe as the sadistic commander of the camp, The Bird, who register strongly with his diabolical portrayal and viewers will enjoy hating. He’s even more hateful than J. K. Simmon who just won an Oscar as the villainous teacher in “Whiplash”. This is Jolie’s second directorial job after 2011's “In the Land of Blood and Honey” with the Bosnian Civil War as background. It’s also uninspired. Maybe she should just stick to acting.