Jolie's Unbroken Comes Up Short
It's a 'grand' effort, but less than satisfying: critics
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Dec 25, 2014 10:04 AM CST

(Newser) – Angelina Jolie's second directorial effort is Unbroken, a much-hyped adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand's bestselling book. It tells the story of Louis Zamperini, an Italian-American who, as Richard Corliss writes in Time, "lived three lives before he was 30": He competed in the 1936 Olympics, was stranded on a raft for weeks after his B-24 crashed in the Pacific during World War II, and then was tortured as a prisoner of war in Japan. Critics aren't exactly blown away by the movie:

  • "Zamperini’s life story is genuinely inspirational, but the movie seems fashioned as a standard-issue profile in courage," writes Peter Rainer in the Christian Science Monitor, complaining of "conventional" directing. Zamperini is "transformed into an almost saintlike figure. He would have been every bit as inspirational, even more so, without the halo."

  • In the New Yorker, David Denby pulls no punches, calling the film "an interminable, redundant, unnecessary epic devoted to suffering, suffering, suffering." Jolie, he says, "confuses long scenes of sadism with truth-telling."
  • The film is well-shot and well-acted, writes Donald Clarke in the Irish Times. "The only things missing are character and plot." But "does Unbroken really look like the work of a 'minimally talented spoiled brat'? Well, it’s better than at least half of George Clooney’s directorial output, and nobody’s giving that silver fox metaphorical wedgies via leaked email."
  • And Corliss defends the film, even if it "doesn't quite rise to enthralling." The movie received a huge amount of pre-release attention, and "for many reviewers, the build-up led to a big breakdown when they finally saw it. Unbroken was just … a movie." Ultimately, he calls it "a grand, solid movie," with lead actor Jack O’Connell as "the part of Unbroken that was truly worth the wait."