I hate to say this, but if Angelina Jolie were a) a man or b) unknown, “Unbroken” would be considered a masterpiece. Jolie is a lightning rod, as Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal’s leaked emails show all too well. Rudin, who hates everyone, considers her a “spoiled brat” and doesn’t want her commandeering David Fincher for her “Cleopatra” remake. I agree; there’s no reason for a “Cleopatra” remake. But I disagree about Jolie.
“Unbroken” was recently named to the AFI list of top 10 movies of the year. It’s a deserved spot. That Jolie was able to tell the story of Louie Zamperini at all seems to really upset a lot of people. That she made a real epic film on a big canvas, one that fully conveys Zamperini’s rise to Olympics fame and then his two years of torture as a World War II prisoner of the Japanese– wow, that is even worse. How dare she?
“Unbroken” isn’t perfect. It’s long but that’s no different than anything else. Every movie could use 20 minutes excised. It may seem a little conventional, also, as it is a linear story. The early parts of the screenplay are frustrating as they cut back and forth in time. Four screenwriters were involved including Joel and Ethan Coen. But the story is unwieldy, and that’s just something we have to deal with until Zamperini and his two comrades are in their lifeboat. After that it’s smooth– er, well, choppy– sailing.
Zamperini survived being shot down over the Pacific and living in a lifeboat for 47 days. This was not fiction, like Life of Pi. There were no imaginary animals to play with. This was real. And 47 grueling days, and the death of one buddy, he and the other survivor were ‘rescued’ by the Japanese. They were thrown in prison and stayed in a Japanese internment camp for two years. Zamperini was singled for for torture due to his status as an Olympic hero. All of this happened.
The truth is, if Spielberg or Eastwood made the movie (and they have, in different forms) the Oscar prognosticators would be running around screaming “brilliant” and putting on awards parades. But it’s Angelina Jolie, so either she made this film by luck, or someone else did it and she’s “lip synching.” Bull shit.
Just wait: Jolie makes movie stars out of Jack O’Connell, Finn Wittrock, and Domhnall Gleason. If Universal puts some muscle into the marketing, “Unbroken” should turn into an audience favorite. It’s patriotic and heroic, and a big old fashioned entertainment.