Starring up-and-comer Jack O'Connell, Jolie's newest effort comes equipped with equal measure of intense human drama and explosive action. Does that amount to a worthwhile experience in theaters? Here's the answer, based on what critics are saying:
"Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), the son of Italian immigrants, has a rough-and-tumble childhood in California, always finding ways to get into trouble and often running from the police. His salvation comes in track meets. He channels his bad-boy instincts into intense, record-breaking runs that land him a spot on the U.S. Olympic team headed to Berlin in 1936.
"Zamperini goes from being a vaunted athlete representing America in Hitler’s Germany to fighting the Japanese from B-24s during harrowing missions over the Pacific.
"In May of 1943, his plane crashes into the ocean, leaving three survivors: Zamperini, his pilot (Domhnall Gleeson) and fellow crew member Mac (Finn Wittrock). It is the beginning of 47 days adrift at sea battling starvation, sharks and other enemies. Next comes POW camps where Zamperini is beaten and tortured by an especially sadistic corporal nicknamed the Bird (played by Japanese rock star Miyavi)." — Clint O'Connor, Cleveland.com
Director Jolie 2.0
"Jolie's spectacularly noncommercial first feature, the 2011 Bosnian war drama, 'In the Land of Blood and Honey,' nonetheless proved that she could direct, an assertion more than confirmed by the vivid you-are-there opening of 'Unbroken.' Without preamble, the film puts you on board a B-24, one of many sent out on a U.S. bombing raid of a Japanese-held island in the Pacific. There's a real sense of the heaviness of the metal that somehow defies gravity as it grinds through the air, as well as an intense awareness of how all the men, from the guys in the cockpit, to the exposed gunners in their turrets, to the bombardier, Zamperini, depend upon each other to do their jobs. And, as the fast Zeroes approach and start firing on the Americans, the sound and speed of events are both pulse-quickening and sobering reminders of how arbitrary life and death are in combat." — Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
"You can’t help but notice how beautiful 'Unbroken' looks, even as atrocity after atrocity occurs on screen. That’s because Jolie recruited the best in the business – cinematographer Roger Deakins – to photograph her inspirational tribute to Zamperini’s struggles. Even though Deakins shoots in digital, numerous shots in Jolie’s drama catch your breath with their exquisite composition. His aerial sequences are sun-drenched by never too bleachy. His ocean-set scenes stretch for miles without ever losing focus. And his POW-camp detours – as brutal, heartwrenching and difficult as they are – immerse us in Zamperini’s dire fate without disorienting us, the way similar efforts usually do." — Sean O'Connell, CinemaBlend
The Star of the Show
"There’s little question that the performance by up ‘n’ comer Jack O’Connell is the defining element of the film and one that leaves the biggest impression. O’Connell once again changes his appearance quite dramatically from other roles he’s played this year. Hearing his convincing ‘40s American accent adds to the way he disappears into the role of Zamperini." — Edward Douglas, Coming Soon
The Final Word
"'Unbroken' is beautifully crafted even in its brutality. A sequence near war's end, when Louis and the POWs are herded to a river expecting to be murdered en masse, is memory-scarring. Jolie has an army of craftsmen in her corner, notably camera poet Roger Deakins ('No Country for Old Men'). But it's her vision that gives 'Unbroken' a spirit that soars. In honoring Louis' endurance, she does herself proud." — Rolling Stone
"Unbroken" is in theaters now.