Unbroken: Angelina at war | Reviews | Creative Loafing Charlotte
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Unbroken: Angelina at war 

Rating: ***

DIRECTED BY Angelina Jolie
STARS Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson

Domhnall Gleeson and Jack O'Connell in Unbroken (Photo: Universal)
  • Domhnall Gleeson and Jack O'Connell in Unbroken (Photo: Universal)

Scott Rudin may inarguably be a great producer, but he's just as unequivocally a POS as a human being (for starters, he's notorious for firing over 120 assistants in a five-year stretch, including one who brought him the wrong type of muffin). But Hollywood insiders (and many outside) have known this for years, so it's unlikely anyone was shocked at the nasty comments the man behind No Country for Old Men, The Social Network and The Grand Budapest Hotel (among many, many more) made in some of the e-mails leaked in the Great Sony Hack of 2014. A sizable number focused on Angelina Jolie, tagged by Rudin as a "minimally talented spoiled brat." Of course, Jolie has just as many Oscars as Rudin (one apiece) and was the star of the $750 million global smash Maleficent, but that apparently doesn't matter in the mind of an ogre like Rudin.

So it's a safe bet Rudin wasn't the first in line to see Unbroken, which marks Jolie's second directorial effort (the first was 2011's barely seen In the Land of Blood and Honey). Adapted by a powerhouse quartet of scripters (including Joel and Ethan Coen) from Laura Hillenbrand's book, this centers on the true-life tale of Louie Zamperini (Jack O'Connell), an Olympic athlete who, during World War II, survived for 47 days on a life raft alongside two fellow airmen (Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock), only to then end up in a POW camp overseen by a sadistic guard known as "The Bird" (played by Japanese rock star Miyavi).

The story of Unbroken is a great one, and Jolie largely tackles it as if she were mounting an old-fashioned flag-waving piece sprinkled with modern trimmings (she doesn't shy away from the brutality on view). But the passion evident in her best performances is largely missing in her direction, as the austere workmanship keeps the incidents at an emotional distance and never provides the inspirational catharsis demanded by the material. Unbroken is a fine biopic of a remarkable American, but it needed a little more fire in its belly to truly roar.

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