Poor Angelina Jolie. She is really trying to be a good director. But she's not. And it may be about time for her to realize she needs more than a script from the legendary Coen brothers and her own recognizability to make a movie good. First off, does it matter that Unbroken is merely an average film? No. The folks at Universal marketed the hell out of this war epic and as a result it was the big Christmas Day release of 2014. And I've got news for you....when you're the big Christmas Day release for that year....you're gonna make a lot of money. And hey! Unbroken made a lot of money, but at the end of the day, was it worth it? Sorry folks, but I say no. So, let's dive into why not shall we?
So, first off, the acting. A movie that features one character throughout and borders on a biopic gets the "official" rule of a biopic which is this: the movie is only as good as its lead. And, sadly, Jack O'Connell is simply asked to do too much as the lead Louis Zamperini. I'm not saying he was bad, but he was merely....average. In a role that required him to be exceptional. O'Connell was very bland as our lead character, and put in a rather forgettable performance. Which you simply can. Not. Do. In a movie like this. Honestly I wish they had cast Domhnall Gleeson as Zamperini over O'Connell. His performance as Phil was easily the best performance of the film. Don't know who I'm talking about? Well...you will. He's the top-billed actor for a little film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There were also a few cool moments from a technical standpoint, particularly with the initial plane crash, but after that (and I feel like I've been saying this a lot recently) the movie played things very safe and predictable, with very VERY easy-to-see-coming flashbacks to Zamperini's former life as an Olympian and typical invisible wall adhering cinematography. The lighting was also very bland. But then again why should I expect a movie to, you know, mix it up from a technical standpoint? These standard movie-making formulas do work for most people. But you know what? It matters to me. I am being spoiled by movies like Wild and Whiplash that take risks from an editing/cinematography standpoint and work. These movies benefit sooooo much when they are creative from a technical standpoint. Sure, sometimes it doesn't. Like in the instance of Annie. Boy was that editing bad. But, more often then not, it works! And it's creative! WHOA...creativity in movies??? No, I shouldn't expect that...
And here's my biggest fault with Unbroken: it has a theme (if you can't guess what it is, I'll give you a hint: it's in the title of the movie) and it wants to bash you over the head with this theme until you are exhausted and borderline frustrated. Unbroken is definitely 2014's Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It is (or was now, I guess) the "official" feel-good movie of the holiday season. And that's all it ever is. It never strives to be anything more than this, which, and I can't emphasize this enough, is OK. It's fine to be predictable and not tense in any way, shape, or form throughout its rather overlong 137 minute runtime. After all, a large chunk of Hollywood seems to think you can't make a feel-good movie with any sort of drama attached to it at all for some reason. But that's ok. I would much rather watch this predictable, feel-good movie over a Michael Bay film any day of the week. But, at the end of the day, a feel-good film is not a good film. You need more than one note to make a symphony just like you need more than one element to make a good movie. So, at the end of the day, while Unbroken is a feel-good movie about a hero who absolutely deserved a movie made by him by a high-profile Hollywood figure, it is not a good movie. It is merely...average. Better luck next time, Mrs. Jolie. Maybe mix it up and pick a not-so-feel-good subject for your next film.
The Critique: A one-note feel-good story about a man who deserves it. However due to a subpar performance from its lead, it is merely an average film.
The Recommendation: I think its safe to say that if you had any desire to see this movie you would have seen it already. If you haven't....go watch Saving Private Ryan again instead.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 5.5/10 Slightly Above Average. So I decided to bump this up half a point at the last second strictly out of respect for Louis Zamperini. This man was a great man, and I am glad I know more about him now. Though I have no intention of seeing this film again anytime soon.