The upcoming film “Unbroken” is based on a runaway bestseller, has a celebrity behind the camera, and is getting Oscar buzz. So does the movie itself live up to all the hype?
“Unbroken,” which is directed by Angelina Jolie and stars Jack O’Connell as Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic athlete who was taken prisoner by the Japanese during World War II after a harrowing ordeal at sea, isn’t being released until December, but some reviews have already been released. The verdict seems to be that the film is an old-fashioned rousing biopic, and that satisfies some critics more than others.
Indiewire critic Eric Kohn called the movie a “classical feel-good wartime excursion.”
“That's just enough to make the movie work in the confines of its formula while laying its limitations bare,” he wrote. “As with [Jolie’s previous directorial effort ‘In the Land of] Blood and Honey,’ Jolie's sophomore outing breaks no new ground, but manages to convey its real-life odyssey with a largely agreeable, celebratory tone. At over two hours, the movie's galvanizing spirit grows weary. But Jolie keeps the narrative afloat thanks to first-rate craftsmanship, a few well-honed moments of bona fide suspense, and a terrifically restrained Jack O'Connell in the lead role. While it only hints at the sweeping epic that never fully materializes, ‘Unbroken’ offers further proof that Jolie's directorial instincts pass muster alongside her other talents.” He gave the film a B.
Variety critic Justin Chang found the film to be “beautifully wrought but cumulatively underwhelming” but also praised O’Connell.
“Jolie has achieved something by turns eminently respectable and respectful to a fault, maintaining an intimate, character-driven focus that, despite the skill of the filmmaking and another superb lead performance from Jack O’Connell, never fully roars to dramatic life,” he wrote. “A bit embalmed in its own nobility, it’s an extraordinary story told in dutiful, unexceptional terms, the passionate commitment of all involved rarely achieving gut-level impact.”
Hollywood Reporter reviewer Todd McCarthy delivered a similar verdict.
“A great true story is telescoped down to a merely good one in ‘Unbroken’,” he wrote. “After a dynamite first half-hour, Angelina Jolie's accomplished second outing as a director slowly loses steam as it chronicles the inhuman dose of suffering endured by Olympic runner Louie Zamperini… Wonderfully acted by Jack O'Connell in the leading role and guided with a steady hand by Jolie without unduly inflating the heroics or injecting maudlin cliches, this will be a tough film for some to take. But it also has strong appeal as an extraordinary survival story.”
Meanwhile, Alonso Duralde of TheWrap wrote of the film, “The results are more awe-inspiring than moving, but the true story of Louis Zamperini definitely makes a heck of a yarn… If I describe the superior craftsmanship of ‘Unbroken’… in a way that makes the end results seem more like a convertible than a movie, it's because the film boasts both sheen and efficiency without always delivering an equivalent emotional impact.”
"Unbroken" opens on Dec. 25.