Starring: Jack O’Connell, Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson, Takamasa Ishihara
“A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.” That’s what long-distance runner Louis Zamperini’s best friend told him as he headed off to compete in the 1936 Olympics. But the road that lied ahead of Zamparini (O’Connell) would hold much more in store for him than a brief instant of agony. From his time as a world-class runner to his service in the military, many difficult times awaited Zamperini, as chronicled in his bestselling biography of the same name, written by Laura Hillenbrand. After a near-fatal plane crash during his service in World War II, Zamparini and two other surviving crewmates spent a month and a half stranded at sea before being taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese. What followed thereafter would turn out to be one of the greatest stories of toughness, resilience and faith ever told.
Starring a strong cast of young actors, “Unbroken” delivers a powerful story of survival, starring Jack O’Connell, Garrett Hedlund and a host of other up-and-comers. O’Connell and “Harry Potter” alum Domhnall Gleeson put on a tragic portrayal of survival at sea during “act one” of the movie, taking on the roles of two starving, emaciated prisoners of war, and O’Connell carries the remainder of the film on his back (quite literally) as his Zamperini is held captive by the Japanese. Additionally, Takamasa Ishihara creates one of the most despicable characters in recent memory as the loathsome Sergeant Watanabe.
One of the film’s greatest strengths is its ability to draw on the audience’s emotions. The plot is quite gripping, between its sympathetic portrayal of the downtrodden prisoners, its patriotic sense of American pride and Zamperini’s stirring resiliency throughout. Watanabe comes off as being utterly sadistic – undoubtedly, he was – and seeing him put the American soldiers through endless persecution is sickening to watch. Director Angelina Jolie and company get their point across extremely efficiently. You’ll end up enthusiastically cheering for Zamperini as the movie progresses.
In a word, “Unbreakable” is powerful. Truly, it is a story worth telling – and a movie worth watching. But be advised, it is one of the most brutal films you may ever watch. Watching Zamperini nearly starve to death at sea is not exactly the Salt Lake City DVD Examiner’s idea of a “good time.” Subsequently, he and the other American prisoners are frequently beaten and tortured mercilessly and without purpose by Watanabe and the Japanese. The way the Americans are treated in this movie is, at best, inhumane. It’s very, very violent and very, very difficult to sit through. Certainly, this movie is not for the faint of heart, but those that can stomach the barbarism should set aside a couple hours and give it a watch.
The other slight downside is that the abrupt ending of the film may come off as a tad incomplete and unsatisfying to some, but that’s what the book is for. In most cases, if a movie makes you want to learn more about the story, that’s a good sign, so head on over to the library and pick it the book if you feel so inclined. (Note: Although the rental version does not include any special features, the bonus segments included in the retail version should shed some additional light on the true story, with features like “The Real Louis Zamperini” and “Louis’ Path to Forgiveness.”)
Because of its constant brutality, it probably shouldn’t be a movie you’ll want to run out and buy immediately so you can watch it over and over with your family and friends. But despite its minor flaws, “Unbroken” and its tale of survival, heart and, ultimately, forgiveness is incredibly moving and inspirational and deserves to be seen once or twice.
Similar movies: “The Book Thief” (2013), “Pearl Harbor” (2001), “Life of Pi” (2013)
Blu-ray bonus features:
– Audio in English, French, Spanish
– Subtitles in English, French, Spanish
– No other bonus features available on rental version
Directed by: Angelina Jolie
Studio: Universal Pictures
Running time: 137 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13 for “war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language”; and also including racial slurs; instances of brief, non-sexualized, rear male nudity in a P.O.W. scenario; and some violence and gore involving animals (as a means of self-defense and self-preservation).
Costars Finn Wittrock, Alex Russell, Jai Courtney, C.J. Valleroy
Blu-ray release date: March 24, 2015
Looking to find “Unbroken” on DVD or Blu-ray in the Salt Lake area? Check out these suggested links:
Best Buy store locator
Wal-Mart store locator
Find a Redbox near you!
Or get the digital download from Amazon.com!