Director: Angelina Jolie
Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson
Actors: Jack O’Connell, Takamasa Ishihara, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund
Director of Photography: Roger Deakins
Film Editor: William Goldenberg, Tim Squyres
Awards to date: Critics Choice Award Nominee for Best Picture, Critics Choice Award Nominee for Best Director, Critics Choice Award Nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay, Critics Choice Award Nominee for Best Cinematography,
The opening scenes show airmen flying a bomber over Germany in World War II. These scenes are extraordinary, certainly some of the best of this kind ever filmed. They are riveting in their clarity. One reviewer likened them to the work of Clint Eastwood. As a movie-goer of some experience, I’ve never seen such scenes better executed.
The photography throughout this film is excellent. Every frame is beautiful. Through much of the movie, this viewer was enthralled by the beauty of the shooting and could think of little else.
The movie is based on the gripping account of the life of Louis Zamperini as told by Laura Hillenbrand in her best-selling non-fiction Unbroken. Louis was a troubled teen who became an Olympic runner and then a bombardier during World War II. Shot down over the Pacific he endured 47 days adrift at sea and later internment in Japanese prison camps.
For moviegoers who have read the book, they know the emotional content of the story. For those viewers who have not read the book, the telling on screen may well seem sterile, uninteresting, cold. There is a certain ho-hum, let’s go through the events, quality to the telling of the story, though the events are horrific. Where is the drama and heightened feeling among the three men trapped on a raft for 47 days after their plane is shot down? What of the relationship between Louis and his older brother, who sees his athletic potential. What of the difficulties of his teen years? What about the grit he showed as he developed as a runner? The deep feelings and emotions of some facets of his story seem to be missing.
There is more drama to the horrors of the conflict between Zamperini and his tormentor the prison official known as The Bird. Both actors are at their at their best with this conflict. Details of torture are not sugar-coated. And yet, the source of Zamperini’s strength, the underlying fears he must have known seem strangely absent.
The writers and the director must take responsibility for the coldness of the movie. It seems overlong in places, even uninteresting. The emotional drive of the narrative is lacking. This will be felt more keenly by those who do not know Zamperini’s story as told by Ms. Hillenbrand. Others may like the objectivity, and not miss a strong dramatic edge to the narrative.
Many will see this movie. The book is very popular. News of the movie has been everywhere. Angelina Jolie is a director to watch. It will be interesting what part word-of-mouth may play in its box office success, and how it may or may not be effected by the awards ceremonies on the horizon.
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