Granger on Movies: 'Unbroken'
Fairfield Citizen film critic Susan Granger reviews the new movie, "Unbroken:"
Impressive and immersive, it begins when Zamperini's bomber crashes into the Pacific Ocean. He and two other survivors spent 47 days adrift in rubber lifeboats before they were picked up by the Japanese and sent to various, notorious POW camps.
Cocky, grimly determined Zamperini was singled out for relentlessly brutal torture by a cruel, imperious camp commander, Mutsuhiro Watanabe (Miyavi), wielding a bamboo cane. Scattered throughout, there are flashbacks to Louie's rough childhood and rebellious youth as a high school, college and Olympic runner.
Joel and Ethan Coen ("No Country for Old Men") dutifully adapted the book by Laura Hillenbrand ("Seabiscuit"), working with director/producer Angelina Jolie, who previously helmed "In the Land of Blood and Honey" (2011). Jolie also enlisted the Coens' cinematographer, Roger Deakins, and French composer Alexandre Desplat.
The solemn weight of the vivid, if overly long drama rests directly on Jack O'Connell, a charismatic Englishman from the popular TV series "Skins," who embodies Zamperini's indomitable integrity. His courageous cohorts are played by Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock.
Choosing Watanabe was more difficult. Casting director/acting coach Yoko Narahashi recommended guitarist/singer/songwriter Miyavi (Takamasa Ishihara), who was, at first, daunted by playing someone so sadistic.
Perhaps the longest gestating project in Hollywood history, it took 57 years to bring to the screen. As it evolved, various actors like Tony Curtis or Nicolas Cage were attached to the role. But the biopic never got traction until Angelina Jolie's passion propelled it.
The postscript shows the real Zamperini running in the 1998 Olympic torch relay through the streets of Tokyo, epitomizing the film's message of forgiveness.
Louis Zamperini died at age 97 last July 2, just four months before the world premiere in Australia. When he was in ICU, Jolie brought her computer to the hospital, climbed onto his bed and showed him a rough cut of the film.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Unbroken" is an inspiring, triumphant 8, celebrating the resilient power of the human spirit.
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