Thursday Night Movie Club
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Release Date: 25 December 2014

Director: Angelina Jolie
Jack O'Connell
Domhnall Gleeson
Garrett Hedlund
Takamasa Ishihara
Finn Wittrock
Jai Courtney
Maddalena Ischiale
Vincenzo Amato
John Magaro
Luke Treadaway
Louis McIntosh
Ross Anderson
C.J. Valleroy
John D'Leo
Alex Russell
Louis Zamperini
Young Louie
Young Pete
Older Pete
Unbroken movie poster Unbroken movie poster Unbroken movie poster
Jack O'Connell as Louis Zamparini in UnbrokenFriedrich Nietzsche wrote, "That which does not kill you makes you stronger." In the film Unbroken, truer words were never spoken.

Unbroken is based upon the true story of Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell). Zamperini started his amazing life as a juvenile delinquent. He grew up Italian in a small town that looked upon Italians with scorn. Racism in America is not limited to African-Americans.

Louis Zamperini has already lost the fight giving in to the physical and verbal abuse. He turns to petty crime, alcohol and cigarettes. His brother Pete (Alex Russell) changes his life forever in a simple way. Pete convinces young Louis to try out for the high school track team. Louis knows he has no chance. Pete tells Louis the words that will forever change him and shape his future. "If you can take it, you can make it."

During one of Louis' early track meets, he is running behind the other runners. Pete inspires Louis further by yelling very loudly, "Move it you dumb Dego!" Louis, enraged by the racial slur, suddenly finds his gear and finishes first.

Louis Zamparini makes it to the Olympic Games in UnbrokenLouis' success continues. He sets state records. Suddenly, he finds himself a member of the U.S. Olympic team headed to Germany. He knows he doesn't have much of a chance. Louis is looking ahead four years to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Louis is running well behind in the race. One of the other runners tries to trip him. Louis takes this as a personal insult. He finds a new gear and off he goes. He finishes out of medal contention, but Louis sets an Olympic record for the fastest finishing lap. The dumb Dego from nowhere USA is suddenly thrust onto the world stage as a favorite in the next Olympics.

And then the world is torn apart! Louis' dreams of running in the Tokyo Olympics is dashed when Germany invades Poland and Japan attacks China and the British territories.

Louis becomes a bombardier. Jokes abound on the mission. The crew becomes a tight knit crew and comrades out of necessity and survival. Your life depends on the guy next to you doing his job. His life depends on you doing your job. Their plane is shot to pieces but the bombing mission is successful.

Between missions, Louis spends his time continuing to train and run. The war won't last forever. He may still run in the Olympics, some day.

Zamparini's bomber plane in UnbrokenThe crew is sent on a rescue mission. Their plane was determined to be air-worthy. It wasn't. All goes to hell in a hand basket when their plane literally falls apart.

The only survivors of the crew are Louis, Phil (Domhnall Gleeson), and Mac (Finn Wittrock), who make their way onto lifeboats. Louis' torments are just beginning.

The survivors face severe hardships. They have no food. Very little drinking water. No relief/shelter from the blazing sun during the day and cold temperatures at night. They are stranded in the middle of god-forsaken nowhere and no one knows where there plane went down. A few days adrift, they get further and further from where the plane crashed. Rescue seems unlikely.

Finn Wittrock, Domhnall Gleeson and Jack O'Connell in Unbroken45 days at sea and Zamperini's ordeal goes from worse to extremely worse. The good news... they are rescued. The bad news... they are rescued by the Japanese.

Zamperini's ordeal takes a 180 degree turn. Instead of sitting in the sun without water, he is thrown into a dark cell in the jungle where it rains almost constantly. Countless days go by. Zamperini slowly goes nuts from the lack of human interaction. Somewhere along the way, Zamperini must have been thinking, "Just shoot me already!!!"

One very clever sequence shows Zamperini hasn't completely lost his marbles or the depth of the situation he is in. He cooperates with his captors by lying through his teeth. He answers the questions with a polite refusal. "I never flew that plane so I don't know." He is asked to draw the bombing mechanism. Zamperini can barely hold the pencil. He draws the radio instead.

Zamperini's cooperation results in another series of good news/bad news. He is transferred to a prisoner of war camp. That's the good news. The bad news... he falls under the physical/psychological abuse of "The Bird", Mutsushiro Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara). Zamperini is singled out for "special" abuse because he is an Olympic athlete.

Unbroken clearly depicts the physical/psychological ordeal/abuse Louis Zamperini experienced. Left up to the audience's imagination is exactly how the abuse took their tolls on him. Zamperini is beaten, broken and tortured. Through it all, Zamperini remained unbroken.

In an ironic twist, Zamperini comes to realize that the only weapon he has at his disposal to fight the Japanese is his utter, resolute, unflinching defiance! If he can take it... he can make it. In the process, he can psychologically torture The Bird.

Director Angelina Jolie films Unbroken is a straight-forward manner. There are few shots of unique camera angles. Jolie does not use quick editing cuts to heighten the action. Jolie's approach is to have the actors tell the story, not the camera. The result is a very personal film of one man's epic journey of survival.

Jolie uses an obvious camera angle during one key sequence at the beginning of the film. The result however is nerve-racking suspense. After the bombing run, the bomb bay doors are stuck open. The plane can fly more efficiently is the doors were closed. The captain orders Zamperini to get the doors closed.

The obvious camera angle is from directly above looking straight down at the Mutsushiro Watanabe oversees the prisoner of war camp in Unbrokenopen doors and a 6-inch wide catwalk Zamperini must navigate to get the doors closed. (NOTE: You've seen too many movies if your first thought is actor Slim Pickens.) The audience's reaction is understandable. "Are you crazy. I'm not going out there!" Zamperini carefully walks onto the catwalk with bullets zipping past, no tether to the plane, and nothing between him and the deep blue sea! For Zamperini, this is just something you do for your comrades.

Domhnall Gleeson and Jack O'Connell in UnbrokenThe actors are unknown. This is also a clever approach to the film by Jolie. The audience cannot envision any of the actors from any of their other roles. This helps the audience to relate completely to the characters, not the actors.

Jack O'Connell is fantastic as Louis Zamperini. Zamperini faced racism from the day he was born. He amazingly finds himself at the Olympics where all of the athletes are equal only to experience racism again when hostilities break out between the United States and Japan.

O'Connell keeps his portrayal of Zamperini on level ground. There is never excessive emoting. Through the film, O'Connell never lets his acting overshadow Zamperini's story. O'Connell never wails "Oh Lord... why me? What else can possibly go wrong next?" Instead, O'Connell captures Zamperini's spirit. Each new ordeal is just another hurdle to jump. Another day to live. Living is an act of defiance.

Takamasa Ishihara as Mutsushiro Watanabe in UnbrokenTakamasa Ishihara is frightening in his portrayal of Mutsushiro Watanabe. With his first appearance on screen, Ishihara shows Watanabe is a man to be feared. Watanabe is ruthless, sadistic. Due to Ishihara's performance and without saying a word, the audience immediately hates Watanabe.

But, Mutsushiro Watanabe is also a failure in his eyes and the eyes of his family. A good soldier would be fighting in the war. Watanabe is assigned the unenviable task of prison guard.

Watanabe becomes a ruthless, sadistic guard to show the Japanese military that he is a good soldier. He follows orders. He executes his orders. His prisoners do not escape. They do not wreak havoc. Under his command, the prison camp functions in an orderly fashion. Ishihara captures Watanabe's desperate attempts to be noticed by his superiors.

Jolie also uses foreshadowing to heighten suspense. In one sequence, all the prisoners in the camp must punch Zamperini. Otherwise, prisoners will be shot. The men are caught between a rock and a hard place. It is a no-win situation. The prisoners are clearly conflicted and distraught until Zamperini ends the standoff by defiantly screaming, "Hit me! I can take it!"

Jack O'Connell as Louis Zamparini in UnbrokenThe true-nail biter of suspense comes at the end of the film. The prisoners know that the Japanese soldiers will shoot all of the prisoners if the Japanese effort in the war fails. The prisoners are told they will be allowed to bathe in the local river, as a treat. The slow march through the camp and through a long narrow tunnel is excruciatingly painful to watch. The end is near and everyone, audience included, knows this.

There is only one funny line in Unbroken. Zamperini and his fellow survivors are lost at sea when a Japanese plane strafes the raft with a hail of bullets. Zamperini dives under water into shark-infested waters. The other two are stuck in the raft. Zamperini looks up at the raft expecting to see blood oozing into the water. He climbs aboard to find his friends unresponsive. Phil rolls over and calmly says, "If the Japanese shoot like that, we're going to win the war." Priceless!

Unbroken is a harrowing, tragic tale of one man's epic struggle. Amazingly, the film has a happy ending. Louis Zamperini finally realizes his life-long dream of running in the Olympics. Ironically, he became a torch bearer in the Olympics held in Tokyo, Japan.