Unbroken (2014)

I saw that this was Angelina Jolie's directorial debut, and I had hope. Yes, the Sony hack released emails that said that she was really hard to work with for the production of this movie, but that just means she's a handful. Fact is, Edward Norton is supposed to be really, really hard to deal with when making a movie, but that doesn't mean that he can't make a good movie. As a bonus, this screenplay was written by the Cohen brothers, so it had that going for it as well. Why didn't it all click?

It's hard to make a Second World War movie that breaks new ground. It's all too easy to fall back on familiar scenes of Japanese prison camps, forced labor, and propaganda. One of the more tired ways of dealing with these camps is to make the protagonist the focal point for all of the impotent rage of the camp commander. I wonder what this movie will do.

Here's the thing, it doesn't break any ground, and it makes the valiant struggle that actually happened in real life nothing more than the same story that we've heard before. Yes, they added a little back story, but the problem is that it's back story. I heard the actual story, and it was an impressive journey from kid to Olympics to war hero to plane crash survivor to prisoner. Unfortunately, the story is told out of order, and the build-up doesn't seem to work.

It's a shame that the story telling lets the story itself down, as the actors bring their A game, and the special effects are very good. I've seen CG planes crash into water before, and the level of effort that went into this one appears to have been pretty substantial. I don't know if the problem with the disconnection between the events on screen and the emotional involvement is the result of the director or the screen play writer or possibly even the source material.

One of the more impressive effects is the same one that really made me think that The Great Raid was half-assed. When you have prisoners of war, the expectation is that they will be getting very, very thin. In The Great Raid, they just didn't. Every one of them looked like they were in pretty good health. In this movie, however, even the lead, played by Jack O'Connell, is whittled down to skin and bones.

The movie isn't terrible, but it doesn't have enough soul for me to connect with. I wasn't really all that concerned for Jack for most of the movie. A few times, I just hoped he'd die, as his predicaments were pretty damn horrible. Yes, it would have made for a shorter story and not a particularly happy one, but the movie had gone on long enough, and you only need to see people suffer for so long.

Direction was moderate
Story was okay
Dialogue was acceptable
Effects were great
Acting was very good

Bottom Line: A Fabergé egg. Pretty but ultimately hollow.



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