WWII Saga Recounts U.S. Olympian’s Ordeal as Brutalized POW
Sadly, Unbroken may suffer a fate worse than death. It may be completely overshadowed, despite a compelling story and great execution, because of one of the cruelest problems of all – poor timing.
Do you remember how Infamous, a biopic about Truman Capote, was released right after Capote? But because Capote had already received considerable critical acclaim, including an Oscar for the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Johnnie-come-lately Infamous had little chance of making more than a blip on the radar.
The same fate might befall Unbroken.
Unbroken is a World War II saga directed by Angelina Jolie. The parallels between this picture and The Railway Man are impossible to ignore, since they both recall the real-life ordeal of a Prisoner Of War tortured by a sadistic, Japanese officer.
The Railway Man, which opened eight months ago, in April, 2014, was based on the autobiography of Eric Lomax, and starred the charismatic Colin Firth in the title role opposite Tanroh Ishida as the sick interrogator who seemed to take pleasure in beating him mercilessly. Although Lomax would survive Singapore, he was left traumatized by the grueling ordeal, and ultimately attempted to exorcise his demons by returning to Southeast Asia to track down his abuser.
The similarly-themed Unbroken was adapted from the Laura Hillenbrand best-seller of the same name, that recounts bombardier Louie Lamperini’s struggle to survive a POW camp in Tokyo after his plane crashed in the Pacific during a rescue mission. Because Lamperini had represented the U.S. in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, he was singled out for special mistreatment by a cruel prison guard. And later in life, Lamperini would return to the Orient to try to confront that evil creep who’d singled him out for an extra measure of persecution. Louie Lamperini was played by Jack O’Connell, and Takamasa Ishihara played the cruel prison guard.
Unbroken, like The Railway Man, even ends with a touching, closing credits photo montage featuring snapshots of both the hero and his tormentor which only added to this critic’s profound sense of deja vu. An honorable, historical drama who’s primary flaw rests in its being released too soon after a more-compelling biopic revolving around similar subject-matter.
Surprisingly, considering that it really needed something to solidly differentiate it from The Railway Man, Unbroken generates a profound sense of deja vu in the finale, when it ends with a touching, closing credits photo montage that features snapshots of both the hero and his tormentor.
Why would they do that?
Unbroken is an honorable, historical drama whose primary flaw rests in its being released too soon after a more-compelling biopic revolving around similar subject-matter.
Even with these negatives in play, Unbroken, distributed by Universal Pictures, is rated very good, and an uplifting tribute to the indomitability of the human spirit.
Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for brief profanity and intense brutality
In English, Italian and Japanese with subtitles
Running time: 137 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Watch the Unbroken trailer: