Unbroken | Film review – Angelina Jolie’s rousing celebration of human resilience and courage

Unbroken

Following her feature film directing debut, 2011’s Bosnian War melodrama In the Land of Blood and Honey, Angelina Jolie’s second film as a director is a stirring biopic of Olympic athlete turned Japanese prisoner of war Louis Zamperini.

Zamperini’s story is truly remarkable. A delinquent teenager from an Italian-American family in California, he turned his life around to become a champion athlete, representing the US at the 1938 Berlin Olympics. Then, as a US air force flier during World War Two, he endured ordeals that would have crushed most other men.

Opening with a nerve-jangling bombing mission before flashing back to Zamperini’s scrappy immigrant childhood and athletic triumphs, Jolie’s movie goes on to show how he first survives a plane crash in the Pacific and then somehow gets through 47 days in a raft in shark-infested waters while striving to boost the morale of his two fellow survivors (played by Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Whitrock) with lip-smacking recollections of his mother’s cooking.

When rescue finally comes, he ends up in a series of brutal Japanese prisoner-of-war camps where a sadistic guard (played with sly menace by Japanese pop star Miyavi) singles him out for particularly savage treatment.

Jolie’s solidly old-fashioned film doesn’t probe particularly deeply into its hero’s psyche, and it doesn’t depict his post-war life. What Jolie does do very well, however, is convey Zamperini’s wartime experiences with gut-wrenching immediacy. She’s aided by Roger Deakins’ striking Oscar-nominated cinematography and a compelling lead performance by Bafta rising star Jack O’Connell, and their combined efforts make Unbroken a rousing celebration of human resilience and courage.

Certificate 12. Runtime 137 mins. Director Angelina Jolie.

Unbroken is released on DVD & Blu-ray by Universal Pictures UK.

 

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