Unbroken (12A) ****
It’s been quite a year for British actor Jack O’Connell (whose dad, incidentally, hails from Co Kerry). He was terrifically terrifying in the gritty prison drama Starred Up. He had us on the edges of our seats in the very fine Belfast thriller ’71.
Now he’s at it again, fleshing out a heroic American in what is another mesmerising performance in this movie directed by Angelina Jolie. He carries Jolie’s film with class, even when it occasionally wobbles in trying too hard to be epic.
Unbroken tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Italian American who competed in the Olympic Games.
When WW2 broke out he fought for the Allies, only to be cast adrift in the Pacific Ocean for several weeks along with fellow airmen Phil (Domhnall Gleeson) and Mac (Finn Wittrock) when their plane is shot down.
When they are eventually spotted, it’s by Japanese forces. They are taken as prisoners of war into a brutal regime. Unfortunately for Zamperini, he comes under the radar of one particularly nasty guard, known only as ‘The Bird’ by the servicemen. He’s played in an impressive debut by Japanese rock star Miyavi.
Jolie’s film is essentially about survival and endurance and at times it’s all a little one-note. There’s a sense that it’s trying to hard, a common affliction of movies targeted towards awards season.
Yet despite its flaws, Unbroken has a real power to it and what these characters endured in the hope of seeing their families again is undeniably moving.
Jolie’s aided and abetted by O’Connell, who may just be the greatest young talent of his generation.