“We’re going to die,” says World War II US airman Mac (Finn Wittrock). “No, we’re not,” says airman Louis (Jack O’Connell). With fellow crewman Phil (Domhnall Gleeson), they’re adrift in the Pacific Ocean after their damaged bomber goes down. “They’ll never see us,” Mac says. “We’re going to die.” Louis says, “Shut up, Mac,” ending the conversation. They will drift for 47 days before a Japanese warship picks them up, sending Jack and Phil to a POW camp until the war ends.
For more about young Louis Zamperini’s Olympic achievement and brutal wartime challenges, see “Unbroken,” a tribute film to what his brother calls Louis’ willingness “to take it and to make it.”
Jack O’Connell stars as wiry and resilient Louis Zamperini, champion Olympic runner in 1936 and, in World War II, survivor of bleak deprivation and horrific brutality. O’Connell wisely underplays his part, internalizing the lesson older brother Pete, played by John D’Leo, taught him: “If you can take it, you can make it.” Takamasa Ishihara is scary as Corporal Watanabe, frustrated, wanna-be superior officer who singles out Zamperini for unrelenting physical and mental torment. “You are like me,” he says in his low voice, beginning a psychological war between Louis and himself. “We are both strong. I saw it in your eyes, but you are an enemy of Japan. You are nothing.”
Others in the cast include, as Louis’ fellow crewman, Domhnall Gleeson, tough “Phil” Phillips, and Finn Wittrock, negative-thinking Mac. C.J. Valleroy and John D’Leo are young Louis and brother Pete, who coaches his sibling: “A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.”
“Unbroken” is a compelling biopic, documenting Zamperini’s Olympic prowess and World War II endurance. Angelina Jolie directed from a spare script by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, based on Lauren Hillenbrand’s bestseller. “Unbroken” keeps its focus tight, rarely pulling away from Zamperini to larger events: Hitler’s Germany in 1936 or World War II’s latter years in the Pacific. We do learn when President Roosevelt dies and the Allies close in on Japan, but it’s not enough to add a needed epic sense to the film. Excellent photography by Roger Deakins and low key, unobtrusive score by Alexandre Desplat.
Rated PG-13 for war violence, intense brutality and language, “Unbroken” runs 137 minutes. Not a family movie, it’s for adults and older teens.
See Louis Zamperini –
He’s the one who takes it;
“Unbroken’s” his biopic –
See him as he makes it.
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