unbrokenYou Can Take It, You Can Make It


Stars: Jack O’Connell, Domhnail Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Finn Wittrock and Miyavi
Director: Angelina Jolie
Scriptwriters: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson from the book by Laura Hillenbrand
Composer:  Alexandre Desplat
Cinematographer: Roger Deakins
Universal Pictures
Rating: PG 13 but with scenes of torture and warfare
Running Length: 138 minutes


The man this film is about, Louis Zamperini, died in July 2014 of the age of 97. After seeing this film, you will wonder how he made it to that remarkable age. The human body can take just so much deprivation and abuse, but as is stated in the film, “You can take it, you can make it,” and made it, he did.  “Unbroken,” from Laura Hillenbrand’s best selling book, is a story of survival with a capital “S.” Who directs this emotional roller coaster? Angelina Jolie, in her second film as director, and she nails it. As once stated in a news report, Jolie-Pitt may give up acting for directing. Go for it, girl, you've got what it takes.


The story is told with flashbacks and done seamlessly, as well. We see that young Louis is of Italian heritage and teased because of it. He learns how to defend himself and finds he has skill as a runner, particularly long distances. Soon, he is noticed, in training and off to the Olympics where, against all odds, he wins. This is Part One of his life. Part Two is being in the WWII military and part of a flying squadron with narrow escapes. He has good friends with the crew, but eventually, their luck runs out and the plane crashes in water. Several men survive, Jack, included, and they spend nearly 40 days afloat (sharks, lack of water, sunburn) before being rescued….by the enemy, the Japanese. Now, comes Part Three of Jack’s life, trying to survive a brutal Japanese prison camp under the rule of “The Bird” (Asian rock star Miyavi), who hasn't met an American he doesn't beat to a pulp. The film is rated PG 13, but the brutality of the camp really stretches this rating. Beware, and the word “unbroken” is given new meaning.


Jack O’Connell, a new name to American audiences was selected for this role by the director because she saw something wild in him and that is what is needed for a role in which you lose weight (prison time) and have to look haggard most of the time. There is so much to portray as an actor, both emotionally and physically, and O’Connell does it well. Also, Domhnail Gleeson, Finn Wittrock and Garrett Hedlund as his military crew and in camp, do the same---have to have a little wild in them, also. The camera is right there with them and the audience will feel gritty at the end of the film, as though they, too, had physically experienced this.


The leader of the prison camp, a tall man among Asian’s and nicknamed “The Bird” is an Asian rock star called Miyavi, who pretends to be sympathetic to the prisoners, then hits them repeatedly with a large baton. When he finds that there is an Olympic star in his camp, things go from bad to worse. Continually, we go from Jack’s youth and Olympic years to present day in the prison camp and see how a young man can have such concentration and power within to survive. He has a will of iron and this is more powerful than an ocean or an Asian baton. It is the kind of story you would think is fiction, but it turns out to be true.


Along with the story is Roger Deakins' cinematography with beautiful vistas of sky, sea, land and then down to the earth where torture is the name of the game. The soundtrack, by Alexandre Desplat is equally effective, as it is in another film opening during the holiday season, Benedict Cumberbatch’s “The Imitation Game.”


Director Angelina Jolie’s first film was three years ago and titled “In the Land of Blood and Honey” about war in Bosnia. This second war film is on a larger scale and she has a keen eye for placement of actors and use of the camera. “Unbroken” is an impressive story of one man’s life and how he could have died several times through the years, but fate had him going onward to life in his nineties. An extraordinary achievement for someone who discovered as a youth that he liked to run.


Copyright 2014 Marie Asner