Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Movie Review: "Unbroken"
Unbroken tells the amazing true story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic track athlete who was a bombardier in World War II. When his plane crashes in the Pacific Ocean, his arduous journey begins. From being adrift at sea, to being a POW in a Japanese prison camp, Louie's journey is one of discovering extreme inner strength, perseverance, and ultimately the ability to forgive through faith in God. Simply put, this is the type of film that is rarely getting made anymore, and it is the sort of movie that even 15 years ago would have swept the Oscars, but cynicism and political correctness rule today.
What strikes me most about Unbroken is just how powerful it is through showing us very little about Zamperini other than his service in World War II. While there are a few flashbacks highlighting his childhood and his accomplishments in the Olympics, probably 95% of the movie is all about his experiences lost at sea or as a prisoner of war. It is through this crucible that we learn more about who Zamperini was, tying into the best line of the whole film, "If I can take it, I can make it." In so many ways, that's one of those sayings that perhaps everyone should live their life by. Louie did, while he had his moments of doubt and fear, he ultimately remembered those words when times were at their worst, and he managed to come out the other side.
The cast of up-and-coming actors all deliver exceptional performances and really dedicate themselves to these roles to make this film believable. Japanese pop star, Miyavi, is malicious and so perfect as, "The Bird," the officer in charge at Louie's POW camp, and it's a shame that a year after Barkhad Abdi managed to find critical love for a similar type of role, Miyavi doesn't seem to be having as much luck with awards. Of course, a film like this needs actors you can root for if you are to buy their struggles, and more importantly, actors that go that extra mile to sell the reality of a true story such as this. Jack O'Connell and Domhnall Gleeson, respectively playing Louie and his friend Phil, both lost tons of weight to make the impact greater when they are forced to strip down in front of Japanese soldiers and you see their sunken stomachs and sallow cheeks. That type of actorly commitment only comes when you have a director you can trust and when you know you are working on a great story, and that is exactly what Unbroken is, it's a story that anyone who is a human being can relate to and be moved by.
I often think of watching movies as therapy. A good movie is always therapeutic for me, whether it's a story that makes me think differently about a particular subject like friendship or war, or whether or not it's simply a movie that makes me laugh or feel good. Movies are great for when I need inspiration to go do something, or reminders of the important things in life. Unbroken is one such movie that is a therapeutic experience. It is expertly crafted and superbly shot. Cinematographer Roger Deakins utilizes natural light in some truly stunning ways, and the shot design that Angelina Jolie employs in a lot of the action scenes had me thinking that she should make an action movie, her direction was that clear and concise. It's PG-13, so it's a little bit more tame than a lot of similar movies. Now that doesn't mean it is not rough, but a lot of the worst stuff is more implied, making this a great film for families of high school kids and above. Simply put, Unbroken is one of those movies that I just think everyone has to see, because if you walk away from it and haven't been moved, then there might be something seriously wrong with you.