DVD review: Angelina Jolie's Unbroken inspiring, but we've seen it all before
Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Miyavi
Director: Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie's impressive development as a talent behind the camera continues unabated, and here she tries her hand at a full-blown epic, mostly getting things right but ultimately falling victim to matters beyond her control.
We follow the true tale of Louis Zamperini as the fates lead him from the Berlin Olympics running track to confinement and the brutality dished out by Japanese forces during the second world war. If ever there were a case of the truth being more unbelievable than anything anyone can make up, this is it, as Zamperini is burdened yet saved by the very things that helped make him an elite athlete. His fame draws unwanted attention, but his will power enables him to rise above the adversities placed before him.
The cast doesn't let Jolie down, either. Jack O'Connell, playing the lead, is thoroughly convincing both during the moments when life seems to be presenting Zamperini with everything he's dreamed of, and then when everything is snatched away. And as the frothing prison camp commander, Japanese pop star Miyavi adds a nice touch of twisted menace. The rest of the cast have wafer-thin characters, but that's of no real concern, either, because the focus is on what an incredible life Zamperini led, before, during and (as we find as the credits begin to roll) after the war.
What lets Unbroken down is the sense we have seen its setpieces so many times before. The relationship between Zamperini and the commander harks back to Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (1983), while the individual scenes - the airmen lost at sea, the brutality, the flashes of prison humour and steely resolve - are engaging and well staged, but all a little too familiar.
You can't fault Jolie for trying, nor for an audience over-fed on such stories of triumph in the face of adversity. As special and as inspiring as Zamperini's story is, by the end of cinema's take on his life, the sense of awe we should have from start to finish has long faded away.
Extras: Inside Unbroken, Cast and Crew Concert featuring Miyavi, Prison Camp Theatre: Cinderella, Louis' Path to Forgiveness, The Real Louis Zamperini featurettes; deleted scenes.