Starring Jack O’Connell and Miyavi. Rated PG
If you’re wondering which Angelina Jolie directed Unbroken, it’s not the firecracker we saw in Gia or the one who turned her marriage to Billy Bob Thornton into goth performance art. It’s the serious-minded global ambassador who knows she’s out of her league so she keeps her head down and just tries to do good work. The result, unfortunately, is a turgid biopic about a guy who survived a lot of bad things by being a strong person. It’s not a drama. Drama requires the escalation of conflict and suspense. Unbroken just requires endurance.
Main character Louis Zamperini is played by Jack O’Connell, whose British indies declared his talent but who has little to work with here. Zamperini was a teen track star and an Olympic runner before fighting in World War II, during which he spent 47 days on a life raft surrounded by sharks and a couple of years in a Japanese POW camp presided over by a sadist (pop star Miyavi, who gooses his scenes with seductive menace, like Jolie used to do). Zamperini went through A. LOT. But in Jolie’s hands, every ordeal is given equal weight. There’s no sense of his character developing in response. And because there’s no narration and Zamperini wasn’t a talker, we don’t get much of a sense of what he was thinking or dreaming about during the war. He looks like he just wanted it to be over. Hence, so do we.
Perversely, Jolie is a pretty nifty action director. The opening scene where Zamperini is fighting a losing battle in a rickety plane is intense in all the right, realistic ways. Some of the life-raft stuff is good too. Maybe it’s time Jolie stopped trying to be so noble and embraced her inner Bigelow.