Angelina Jolie's attempt at making an Oscar-friendly film hasn't won over audiences or awards committees. It's surprising, especially considering that the film ticks almost every requisite box at awards season.
Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini, played by the on-the-rise Jack O'Connell. Beginning at his hell-raising youth, Zamperini soon finds an outlet in track running. He eventually makes his way to the Olympics as part of the US relay team. Throughout this encounter and what follows, one thing is hammered at repeatedly - Zamperini will never give up.
During his World War II service, he's shot down and spends 47 days living on a raft with his comrade-in-arms Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Witrock. This extended sequence is punctuated by shark attacks and even a friendly-fire episode before they're then captured by the Japanese and shipped off to work camps.
There, Zamperini confronts The Bird, a sadistic prison warden played by Japanese popstar Miyavi. Again, Zamperini's strength and resilience is put to the test again and again as he endures endless tortures and physical struggles.
Working off a sparse script by the Coens, Jolie's direction is steadfast and functional. While O'Connell's performance is, as always, exemplary and Miyavi gives decent innings in his first professional role, the film never truly lifts on in any kind of emotional sense.
You're simply subjected to Zamperini's woes. One follows the other, which follows the other. Don't get us wrong - his life-story is incredible and a true triumph of the human spirit. Yet, somehow, Jolie's flat directing makes it uninteresting. You eventually arrive at a point where you're wishing for the experience to be over, rather than Zamperini surviving.
There are some very good points, however. O'Connell continues his impressive hot-streak in choosing roles, playing Zamperini's resilience with a quiet determination. Roger Deakins' lush cinematography perfectly fits with the gorgeous landscape of both the sea and the stark prison camps while Miyavi marks himself as a talent to watch.
However, the Coen Brothers' script is too stretched out. Many scenes simply repeat themselves for almost no reason as the script seems locked into telling the story factually rather than interestingly. Jolie's direction follows a similar tack, concerned with telling it in a straightforward manner with little or no visual flourishes.
In all, it's a decent effort by all concerned, but this should have been much more than what it is.