Okay, let’s be blunt, Unbroken is a film that has a pedigree that doesn’t make sense. Written by Joel and Ethan Cohen along with their personal cinematographer Roger Deakins, Ang Lee’s favorite editor Tim Squyres, music by Alexandre Desplat (Argo, Moonrise Kingdom) and directed by Angelina Jolie (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) about the life of an Italian immigrant who both becomes an Olympic star and a prisoner of war, played by Jack O’Connell whom we’d seen before in… IMDB says, 300: Rise of an Empire?
This film is fascinating, but for all the wrong reasons. Before that, let’s say something nice about the film. There’s lots of man-nipples, if you like that type of thing. Beyond that, the biggest compliment I can give this film is also the biggest problem.
This film is Zero Hour! and if you don’t know what that is, it was remade into a film you know better as Airplane! The film is so serious it’s basically oozing with unintentionally hilarious moments. From the CGI shark-punching to the re-use of airplane models and the amazing whitewashing of the army, this is a film you have to see once. The film is super serious from beginning to end, so much so that the protagonist ends up becoming a mute. For the last hour, with the exception of a handful of lines, his actions are relegated to “look here” or “angry look” or, my favorite, “scream like all your bowels are leaving your body, but it’s supposed to show the might of America,” which is also hilarious.
I’m not saying that all war movies need comedic relief, but “serious” does not build a character. Making the protagonist mute for the last half with just that to their name makes us not want to root for them, but forget they’re the protagonist when other characters, who were briefly introduced, have much more colorful and likable personalities. In fact, I was a little confused over if the guy we had followed to this point was dead or not, which brings me to admit I am overly-racist.
Nearly all the actors look completely alike to the point that I sometimes didn’t know if I was watching the protagonist in a scene or some minor character that was just going to die a few scenes later. This problem gets worse when (skipping ahead) the protagonist is transferred to another POW camp where they harvest coal. All the characters get covered in coal-dust making them mistakable. At one point, a Japanese soldier pushes one guy down and it looks like he hurt his foot, but I wasn’t sure if that person was the protagonist or not. I assumed it wasn’t for the sole reason that he screamed in pain instead of remaining silent and glaring back.
In fact, the climax was lost because I only realized it was the protagonist at the end of it. On the opposite end, all of the Japanese soldiers were varied and each was well defined in action, motivation and look. The main Japanese soldier referred to as “The Bird” was so comically over-the-top he needed his own spin-off. Another weird note are the beards. In the Japanese Camps, all the prisoners are well-shaven. Even on the boat, when the characters get unkempt beards, their necks are strangely so clean, you could eat off of them.
Arguably the best scene is not punching a shark in the face, it’s the first interaction between “The Bird” and our protagonist, Louis (who I only know his name thanks to IMDB). The scene is really surreal, Bird yells at Louis to “look at him,” and then hits him with a stick, this happens three times, afterward he yells “don’t look at me!” and smack again. See, you don’t want your audience liking the antagonist, but it’s hard not to because he honestly has a more interesting and identifiable back-story. Of course, this comes back in the end to bite him, but you’re just reminded of that fond scene where, when it began, all you could hope for in your head was a training montage.
This entire film is what Tropic Thunder was a satire of. Under the right direction, the protagonist would be easily identifiable instead of coming off as aloof and muddled. Casting a more-diverse group of actors would’ve helped distinguish between the characters. Giving the protagonist more lines that show he’s strong and loyal to his country would’ve helped define him more than just having him be silent for the rest of the film when things happen.
As a biopic, this film is slightly worse than “Jobs,” and the film ultimately fails by using outdated and overdone clichés, while not building an interesting narrative. If I took out the unintentional hilarity of it, it turns into an incredibly tedious romp that seems to be nothing more than a film that begs for an Oscar so hard, it might as well have just cast Meryl Streep and called it Saving Private Ryan 2: Bros on a Boat. In similar news, Speilberg’s next film was also written by the Cohens, and is also centered around events in World War 2… oh dear.