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Monday, December 29, 2014


is the Unbroken film any good? Where is the duck in unbroken
An unbelievable life, underutilized.

Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 best seller, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, tells the amazing story of Olympian Louis Zamperini who survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash in WWII-only to be caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. It’s one of the most amazing stories of the past Century.

The film was directed by Angeline Jolie, written by screenwriters Joel and Ethan Coen, edited by William Goldenberg and scored by the great Alexandre Desplat. Sounds like the best movie of the year, right?

It’s a good film. But amazingly it’s not great. Fans of the book won’t be disappointed by the film’s scale or the dazzling air fight sequences; nor will they be upset by the faithful-to-the-book storytelling. But the endurance story seems to plod away at milestones without much feeling.

Some of the blame goes to the likeable but blank-faced Jack O’Connell who plays “Louie.” In his quiet moments (lots of them), I never knew what he was thinking about despite having read the biography.

More of the blame goes to an anticlimactic ending that skipped the redemptive moments, the biggest heart of Zamperini’s biography. Unbroken simply tosses them out with text at the end.

The rest of the blame goes to the choice to tell a broad story about a big life by leaving out the small details that connect to why that life mattered to future generations. Darn.

Simply put: Unbroken is good but not great. You will enjoy it, but it should have been excellent. Bridge Over River Kwai remains our best POW picture.

Award potential: I think the Oscars will like Unbroken more than The Golden Globes and myself. Best Picture is possible. Jolie for Best Director would be a nod to women directors everywhere. Miyavi (the Bird) is a distance but deserving choice for Best Supporting Actor. Best Screenplay is likely but the Coens share that category with the original writers. There was an editor before Goldenberg as well. Best Costume, Production, Sound and Sound Mixing seem likely. Best Score is the solid bet.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.

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