Review: “Unbroken” delivers emotional impact, cliche

Bridget Murray, Contributer

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During World War II, Louis Zamperini created a timeless story with his courage and will to survive through both his tribulations in war and throughout his everyday life. The story’s rights were bought pretty soon after the true events, purchased by Universal Studios in 1957. This project passed through many hands and was finally given a jump start by the publication of Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, in 2011. This got Academy Award winning actress Angelina Jolie involved as the second project she directed. Her version of Zamperini’s story came out on Christmas Day of 2014 taking on the title from the book, Unbroken.

The story of Louis Zamperini involved many facets of his life, including an interesting childhood full of mischief and running track, eventually carrying him all the way to the Olympics. The movie showed these key plot points but only briefly. It started out using them as flashbacks during the war, but part of the way through completely stopped, making the order of things somewhat bizarre. It was clear that the focus was the war but even some key points of that were left out, like the many hours spent training for combat. There was also only one scene dedicated to Louis’s life after war, then it quickly came to an end. Most of the movie was dedicated to the time Louis spent lost at sea after a plane crash and his time as a prisoner of war.

Despite the uneven distribution of time, the scenes at sea and at prisoner of war camp were truly touching. Young English actor Jack O’Connell portrayed Zamperini with the fire and passion is must have taken to survive what he did. He showed that Zamperini was an ordinary man, just full of perseverance. There were many other actors playing small parts who came up during different times of Zamperini’s life. Seeing the connection Louis had to others was important to the story but none of the characters were given enough screen time for the audience to feel Louis’s connection with them.

The only other character with a large focus was the head of this specific prisoner of war camp, Watanabe, better know as “The Bird.” He was portrayed like a mad man and was responsible for much of the cruel tasks Louis had to bear throughout his time as a POW. Thanks to The Bird’s cruelty, these always seemed to be the most emotional and climactic scenes.

Overall, Jolie took on a big story and delivered a movie with a lot of heart. It’s clear from interviews and news that she was touched by this story herself and created a friendship with the real life Louis Zamperini before his passing in 2014. She took on a story about war, perseverance, and the will to survive- three attributes that make a good story but also contribute to making a movie seem cliche. Despite the good components of this film, there was really no way of stopping it from becoming our typical Hollywood blockbuster.

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