Saturday, 3 January 2015


A slow, graceful, airborne shot opens Angelina Jolie's Unbroken, an image of light passing through the clouds as a procession of planes passes through also. It's a shot of great beauty and of some power, imbued with a distinct nervousness, as though the beauty were being maintained only by a small thread, and the horror that those planes were prepared to unleash was a threat even to the natural beauty of the light of the sun. Jolie announces her thoughtfulness as an artist in this sole shot, a thoughtfulness that transforms into carefulness as Unbroken's structure grows tighter and affords her fewer opportunities to engage with such artistic concerns. A story of humanity, primarily, and of the will of the human spirit, Unbroken has some grand statements to make, and an extraordinary true account to relate, but it becomes rather too enamoured with its own importance to develop the finer details that might allow it to come to life. Jolie and the story conspire to turn respect and deliberation in filmmaking into a sense of turgid inertia - the film quite steadily grinds to a halt from opening sequence to closing. One identifies the moral and philosophical complexities that organically abound in this (or any) story, though the film's urge to progress onward through time, and its desire to present such amazing historical events in the most simplistic manner available refuse it the chance to establish any kind of internal dialogue with those complexities, a chance to acknowledge curiosities and contradictions that might help to delineate some of its central character's less-than-heroic behaviour later in life (the film alludes to this in ill-advised text cards). Still, Unbroken never ceases to be beautiful, in a classic, straightforward way, and its reluctance to complicate its story to any significant degree does ensure that Jolie ably puts her message across.