Angelina Jolie took on the 2014 film Unbroken as both director and producer. The movie focuses on U.S army officer Louie Zamperini’s journey during World War 2, including his 47 days being lost at sea and his eventual capture and torture from the Japanese at a prisoner of war camp. The movie does an excellent job in documenting an incredible journey that is impressive even among war movies, however, it also left me desiring more. The movie did not necessarily get anything wrong but did not fully capitalize on all of the emotions and narrative drama that could have been extracted from such an amazing story.
One area the movie did hit on was Jolie’s depiction of Zamperini’s life before joining the army. Between the anti-Italian discrimination he faced growing up in California and his appearance in the 1936 Summer Olympics, Unbroken does an excellent job of setting the precursor to events to come. It is perhaps even more impressive that these events in Zamperini’s background are alluded to while he is at war, creating a sense that his situation is coming full circle. This is primarily accomplished through brilliantly timed flashbacks towards the beginning of the movie in which the film starts with Zamperini on an island in the South Pacific in 1943, and then flashes back to his childhood.
The journey that Zamperini goes through is also well depicted in Unbroken. I was particularly moved by the depiction of brutality that was given to prisoners of war at the Japanese prison camps, making this arguably the most intriguing part of Zamperini’s story.
Where the film falls short is its ability to build narrative depth to Zamperini and other characters such as Imperial Army corporal Mutsuhiro Watanabe (who is essentially in the villain role of Unbroken). While the movie does not lack emotion, the emotion outside of the flashbacks at the beginning of the movie is primarily driven by the intensity of Zamperini’s journey, with depth lacking in personal development. The movie did not necessarily do anything wrong in this department, but they missed opportunities. The story of Unbroken was so incredible that I could not help but feel that more human emotion could have been drawn from the intensity of Zamperini’s journey