HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:89
I have a big weakness for true war stories. Many times real life tales of bravery and dedication are so much better than fiction, and that mantra rings true for one of our national heroes. Strength, courage, devotion, will to survive, all of those traits are very common in P.O.W. stories and we’ve seen it done a dozen times before. “Bridge on the River Kwai”, “The Great Raid”, “Empire of the Sun”, “To End All Wars”, it’s nothing new, but I still tear up at the sheer incredible strength these humans bear on their shoulders. In modern day 1st world countries it’s very difficult to think of the atrocities faced by men and women around the globe. Movies like “Schindler’s List” gives us a glimpse, as does “The Diary of Anne Frank”, but I’m still flabbergasted and stunned by what these people have deep within themselves. Many of us get worn out during a sports event, let alone struggle for years on end under conditions that would make even our most mistreated prisoners in jail look like Bourgeoisie. Angelina Jolie tries her hand at making such an epic movie and succeeds in more ways than she fails.
“Unbroken” is based off the book by the same name and tells the true life tale of survival by Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) and Russell Phillips (Domhnall Gleeson) during WWII. His plane downed in a rescue operation, Louis, Russell and one other soldier are left floating out in the Pacific ocean, stranded for over a month. During this time period we get to see flashes of Louis’s life, back to his childhood. A mess up to both his Italian immigrant parents and brother, Louis gains some sort of stability in his life by becoming a track star and from then going to the 1934 Olympics and win a medal. We see the shaping done by that influence and the good that it did in his life. He went from a juvenile delinquent to one of America’s heroes and a stand up man. Both he and his brother joined the military and went their separate ways, only to be separated much longer than originally thought with his crash landing in the ocean.
After a month on that little raft with Russell, Louis is finally picked up by a Navy vessel. Only problem is that it is a Japanese ship. Held for ages at an Island prisoner of war camp, the men are beaten, tortured, humiliated and questioned by the commanding officer. With both men surviving the ordeal they are shipped off to Tokyo where they come into contact with their worst nightmare, Mustsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe, a cruel and merciless commander who makes their stay in Tokyo a living hell. Abusing and torturing the men with gusto reserved only for the cruelest of men, The Bird unleashes all of his hatred and fury upon them. Seeing the strength in Louis’s eyes is nothing but a taunt for the Japanese commander and he does all he can to break the boy, to no avail. As you can guess, this only infuriates him more and efforts are doubled and tripled and quadruples to shatter their spirits.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=41218[/img]Louis Zameniri’s story is makes for one of the most inspiring books I have ever read, and Angelina gives it her all in trying to adapt that to the silver screen. She actually succeeds for the most part, but the impact and potency is just BARELY missing compared to the book. She did an excellent technical job at bringing the pain and suffering of the men to the screen, but there were moments where I think that she didn’t truly grasp the spirit of the film. We see glimpses of it at the beginning, at the church where he is a child, listening to the pastor talk about forgiveness, but then it seems to be forgotten about throughout the rest of the film, except as subtext. I was a little disappointed that they stopped the film right after Louis comes home, as the book goes into much more detail describing the later years of his life. How he struggled with rampant alcoholism and horrible nightmares about strangling his captors over the years. In 1946 both he and his wife became born again believers, which is where the healing finally came in and his nightmares dissipated. Zampeniri spent the rest of his life being a Christian public speaker and inspirational story all across the world. He even went on to run again in the Olympics at the age of 80, back in Japan. I was deeply saddened to find out that he died only 6 months before the movie opened in theaters at the age of 97.
Despite those few flaws, “Unbroken” is still an excellent movie with a lot of heart and soul in its 2 hours and 17 minute runtime. The actors put an incredible amount of physical effort into their roles as they lost an enormous amount of weight to play the emaciated prisoners. Domhnall Gleeson and O’Connell look absolutely wasted away when they strip down for their first bath in the jungle prison. The ribs showing and the gauntness of frame were not CGI’d in the least as they actually put themselves through it. I almost didn’t recognize Garrett Hedlund (Flynn from “Tron Legacy”) if it wasn’t for that jutting jawline of his. Angelina’s sophomore effort definitely is much more fluid and cohesive than her first work in the directorial chair. The film is inspiring, heartfelt and technically well put together in most ways. I have to give my hats off to the movie, and to all those who enjoy it, I highly recommend reading the book, as it is a work of art.
Rated PG-13 for war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=41226[/img]“Unbroken” comes to Blu-ray with an absolutely superb looking 2.40:1 AVC encode. I feel lucky, as I get to review not one, but TWO 5/5 star video presentations in the same day! Shot digitally, “Unbroken” is squeaky clean and noise/grain/artifact free to the nth degree. The image never looks overly digital though, being that some yellow color grading and contrast boosting gives it a retro look. The contrast isn’t boosted really really high like “The Last of Robin Hood”, but just enough that the early days of Louis’s childhood looks effectively nostalgic. Black levels stay deep and inky in the dark prison camp and the light scenes are resplendent with detail poking its head around every corner. Watching their faces is amazing as you can see the individual pores and cracks along the skin where the actors were actually cracking (no CGI or prosthetic) due to the strain they were under in the creative process. Textures and skin tones are incredible with impeccable detail given to each portion of the encode. Artifacts are nonexistent to the naked eye and the bitrate is in the mid-30s, which allows the disc plenty of room to breathe.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=41234[/img]Universal steps in with their first Dolby Atmos encode and it sounds INCREDIBLE. I’ve always been a big fan of these encodes due to the fact that the studios are putting their best feet forward in an effort to really make them appealing to the general audience, even if they don’t have the height surrounds to take advantage of all of the object based localizations. The 7.1 TrueHD core (which I will be reviewing) is a track that just teems with activity and pizazz. The opening scene of the movie with the air fight is simply awe inspiring with deep throaty LFE that just makes the back of your head implode due to the visceral pressure. Surrounds are blasting away with a rat tat tat of gunfire and the shriek of dive bombing planes. Even when the movie calms down and the vocals become the forefront there is always a nice sense of 360 degree immersion going on. The simple sounds of rain pattering on rooftops, the sound of Louis’s feet smacking against the pavement, the creak of a wooden wheel or the rustle of feet shuffling across the floor, all of them come through impeccably. The only complaint I have is that the music feel like it’s a bit TOO much in the background and is a tad lighter than absolutely necessary. That, however, is a minor nitpick in an otherwise excellent audio track.
• Deleted Scenes
• Inside Unbroken
• The Real Louis Zamperini
• Cast and Crew Concert Featuring Miyavi
• Prison Camp Theater: Cinderella
• Louis' Path to Forgiveness
“Unbroken” is an excellent film, and one that hovers just underneath being completely epic. Jolie has certainly come a long way since “In the Land of Blood and Honey”, as the film is much more focused and tightly woven story wise. She proves once more that many of the most inspiring stories are the ones that are real, and certainly ones that allow you to see the best in human kind. Louis Zamperini’s tale of indomitable courage and force of will is one that makes my jaw drop when you realize the amount of pain that man went through without giving in. That fight or flight nature is one of the most powerful and ingrained parts of our formation and how much we’re willing to endure for freedom. Universal has done an amazing job with the technical specs and the extras are above par considering recent releases so I have to give this a solid thumbs up. Definitely recommended.
Starring: Jack O'Connell, Takamasa Ishihara, Domhnall Gleeson
Directed by: Angelina Jolie
Written by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby Amos (7.1 TrueHD core), French, Spanish, DD 5.1
Runtime: 137 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 24th 2015
Buy Unbroken On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
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