Films based on true stories are a tricky thing. What it all really comes down to is: what do you include and what do you leave out? If the film is trying to convey the importance of the main character, nearly everything is at least somewhat significant in the life story of that person. So, what do you include? A prime example (in my opinion) of leaving too much out is the film Lone Survivor. Based on a Navy SEAL operation gone horrifically wrong, the film focused solely on the men and the botched operation. After reading the book written by the lone survivor himself, Marcus Luttrell, I realized just how much was left out. Lone Survivor could have not only been an amazing, action packed, heroic story, it could have been a dramatic look at those left behind to worry over their family-turned-soldiers. It could have been so much more profound, but a decision was made to leave a large portion of the story out. While I haven’t read the book from which Unbroken film is based, if there are aspects that were left out I would be amazed.
What this man went through is nothing short of astonishing. Rarely is a person’s character tested so relentlessly and punishingly as it was for Louis Zamperini. “If you can take it, you can make it.” Louis remembers these words from his brother and his strength is derived from this brief but powerful quote. Whether he was training for the Olympics or fighting for his life these words carried him and pushed him farther than he thought possible. While the film is in fact an adequately made movie it executes the story points like nearly every other true story film. There’s nothing to really separate itself from other films like it. I am very interested to know what this movie would have been like had its screenwriters taken on the directing responsibilities. The Coen Brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski) adapted the book into a script from which Angelina Jolie took over as director. A true story film helmed by the Coen Brothers would be fascinating; oh well, maybe someday.
Despite their masterful writing, it’s the director that ultimately carves out what the final product will look like. Jolie does a good job but I can’t help think it could have been in better hands. I feel that most of what is truly wonderful about this film comes from the story itself; of course the cinematography is nothing short of award worthy. Cinematographer Roger Deakins has been nominated for eleven Academy Awards. He has worked on such masterpieces as The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, and Prisoners. Somehow he has never won but I’m sure that will change eventually. With Unbroken he is as on point as ever. The starkness of the open ocean and the brutality of a POW camp is captured so beautifully and makes for a highly immersive experience, visually speaking.
The main focus here is, and should be, Louis Zamperini. Early in life he was a troublesome kid with constant run-ins with the police. Through guidance from his older brother Louis sets out on a path of greatness and honor. After a great performance in the Olympics, Louis becomes a bombardier during WWII. After a botched rescue mission results in a plane crash in the middle of the ocean, three of the survivors begin their greatest test ever. For over forty days Louis and two others from his crew hold on with everything they have to survive. Stranded with little water, sharks nipping at their heels from below and enemy planes from above, their survival will come at a price. At a moment when all seems lost, “rescue” comes in the form of a Japanese warship. After forty days of drifting in the sea, they suddenly become prisoners of war. One test of fortitude and hell is simply traded out for another. Everything put in front of him is screaming for him to give in, to give up. He recites the words his brother told him and he somehow fights on. Unbroken is a completely justifiable title for such an amazing story about a truly remarkable man.
This is an enjoyable film and its story definitely needed to be told. While its execution is nothing all that special the story and visuals hold it up to be something still great and still worth seeing. This holiday season learn about an American hero whose strength and character is something everyone should strive to live by. Having died this year, Louis lived his life to the fullest. He experienced all aspects of life seemingly to the most extremes in every way. I think his most admirable trait among many was his capacity to forgive. Despite everything his captors forced him to suffer through, he eventually returned to Japan to personally forgive them. See this if for no other reason than to learn of this man and preserve his memory. He is someone that deserves to be remembered. See this film and find out why he is called Unbroken.
Rated PG-13 For: war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language
Run Time: 137 minutes
After Credits Scene: None
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Jai Courtney, Finn Wittrock
Directed By: Angelina Jolie
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 3.5/ Visuals: 4.5
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
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