People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different. In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all. Read on!
Let’s just say that the only reason I slogged my way through the rain to sit and watch Angelina Jolie’s newest bit of Oscar bait was because some chubby bunnies in North Korea decided to continue being assholes. Thanks a lot fascism for proving that amidst a world of change there’s always some consistency.
Unbroken is an above average bit of Oscar bait sandwiched between two glistening pieces of turd. The true story of Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) is a pretty amazing, Hollywood-ready bit of narrative. Zamperini was an Olympic runner who signed up for WWII, made waves as an outstanding bombardier, was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean, drifted around on a raft for three months before being captured by the Japanese and shipped from POW camp to POW camp getting the shit abused out of him all the way. It’s a story of survival, of, ahem, unbroken spirit, and of one kid who went through a shit storm and came out the other side a new man. Or it should be that story.
When Jolie’s film (scripted by The Coen Bros., amongst many) is firing on all cylinders it’s exciting and heart-wrenching and beautifully acted by a troupe of talented young Brits (with reasonable American accents). The cinematography (by frequent Coen-Bro-collaborator Roger Deakin) is glorious and at times, this film stands up to the rightfully classic WWII epic Empire of the Sun. And in the middle hour and a half – raft time and POW time and a little bit of time where Zamperini holds a large log for a while – this is exactly what’s occurring and I thought to myself “Huh, maybe I do enjoy the silky marshmallowy goodness of Oscar bait.”
For some reason though, Jolie, even with a veritable army of talented writer types, can’t seem to figure out how to end this film (let alone start it, as Unbroken for the first twenty or so minutes plays out like a WWII version of Forrest Gump). Though the film is called Unbroken, the almost-last shot of the film, with Zamperini blankly staring into the camera as a cargo plan cruises above him, seems to point out that Mr. Zamperini was indeed broken by his experiences in the war. That, like any normal human being put through the months and years of torture that he did, his brain is a PTSD-addled bit of mush and that it will take years and years of introspection and professional help until he’s able to stare into the face of the world and feel okay. Which is fine, realistic even, but Jolie, being a perhaps bad director, decides to clog the tube of honesty with a heaping pile of title cards that duly explain that Zamperini – later, after the budget for this film dried up it seems – became Unbroken and did a bunch of stuff with the Japanese who’d imprisoned and tortured him. And this, this is not okay. Why make a two and half hour film and then when you get to the most important part of the whole fucking thing, just have your editor scrawl some shit on a computer screen and call it an ending? Oh wait, oh wait, that’s not what Jolie did, instead she first had her editor scrawl some shit on some title cards and then for bonus fun she had the holiday pianist from Macy’s pick his favorite elevator music track and have it lightly playing under a clip of the real Louis Zamperini carrying the Olympic torch through Japan. At which point the part of my brain that thinks critically imploded and I was left a drooling vegetable.
I hope this movie gets nominated for “Best Middle Section Surrounded By Forty Minutes of Film That Will Make You Feel Like You Just Beer-Bonged A Shit Taco, Yes, Technology Has Improved To Where You Can Now Beer-Bong Solid Matter, Frat Guys Are Fucking Stoked.” You know, if that’s a category this year.
Fuck you, North Korea.