By Gavin Craig, staff writer
One of the typical filmmaker’s favorite things to do is to find an inspiring true story and bring it to theaters. Some of these films turn out great, and others just completely miss the mark. Sadly, the latter serves as a better description for the recently-released war drama film “Unbroken.”
The film tells the story of Louis Zamperini, an Italian-American who competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, served in World War II and spent time in a Japanese prison camp. This brief synopsis alone makes “Unbroken” sound like a thrilling movie with a great story, but there are a lot of things in between the lines that drag the entire film down.
For starters, Zamperini, played by Jack O’Connell, was not an Olympic champion. He ran in one track event, finished eighth, and set a minorly important speed record. As for his time in World War II, he is only seen eating raw fish and birds from a life raft.The only remotely interesting part of the story comes when Zamperini is captured and sent to a Japanese prison camp. Here, we see the formation and evolution of the struggle between Zamperini and Mutsuhiro Watanabe, the Japanese corporal in charge of the prison camp.
Watanabe, played by Miyavi, is immensely envious of Zamperini’s status as an Olympic athlete, and sets out to punish him in every possible way. He eventually comes to respect Zamperini for both his physical and mental strength, but still seeks to break him, telling Zamperini that they could be friends if they were not on opposite sides of the war.
This forced me to wonder if Watanabe wanted to do what he was doing, or if he was just acting under the “just following orders” mentality, which raised questions in my head about war and what it does to those involved.
The entire ordeal, however, is grossly overshadowed by the endless scenes of Watanabe beating Zamperini with a heavy bamboo stick and torturing him in other ways, probably frustrated that he was unable to break the prisoners under his control.
The lessons that the film teaches about strength and perseverance are noteworthy, and the story between Zamperini and Watanabe is thought-provoking, but in the end, “Unbroken” is merely a disappointment.