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26th January 2015

Review: Unbroken

Amna Shaddad wasn’t inspired by Unbroken’s attempts to portray heroism

Obviously from the trailer with its uplifting music along with its release on Christmas day, Unbroken is meant as a feel good film. Whilst exploring the conditions of Prisoner of War camps, I expected it will do so as light heartedly as possible. It was difficult going to see a film that was most probably going to, once again, show American war efforts or American soldiers in a positive or congratulatory light: it’s certainly been done before but the real problem is the backdrop of America’s current track record with regard to worldwide attacks, torture and prisoners of war.

If we ignore the state-of-being America has with the rest of the world and attempt to watch and consider this film as if we’ve been living under a rock and know nothing of current world affairs: it’s simply okay. The only way is which this film stood out is in its better attempts at realism thanks to CGI and other modern cinema technologies including make-up to depict more gruesomely, for example, more than a month’s worth of sunburn. But it was realism up to a point. Chiselled good looks were essential throughout and everything still maintained an airbrushed quality to it.

There seems to be a growing appetite for the feel good nostalgic in cinema and TV and this is one, where once again military struggles are distorted to accommodate patriotic ad propaganda principles.

This isn’t the first film to be directed by Angelina Jolie ‘In the land of Blood and Honey’, also a film concerned with war, a story in which Angleina Jolie had attempted to present the Bosnia war through a love story was labelled a “propaganda film” by many critics in the way that it “presents Serbs as eternal bad guys” according to Željko Mitrović or that she was “producing a sanctimonious vanity commercial for her own good intentions” according to Karina Longworth.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the necessity for this film. The most popular British film of 1958, The Camp on Blood Island, flaunted itself as an exposition of Japanese war crimes by exposing the conditions POWs had to endure at a particular camp; whether the film was based on fact or fiction is still unclear.

In the weeks before going to watch this film, the Senate’s report on the CIA’s former worldwide interrogation programme was exposed. Would it not be more interesting to explore these facts that have been hidden for so long? The world is tired of American heroism and stories depicting purely honourable soldiers especially at this moment in time when there is so much evidence of the contrary. There are even articles in the Rolling Stones about it titled ‘The Kill Team: How U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan Murdered Innocent Civilians’.

The cinematography is certainly nice. It takes some time to warm towards Jack O’Connell but eventually his acting is convincing enough. However the protagonist’s main enemy, the POW camp corporal who is especially tough and malicious with O’Connell’s character is exactly the male version of Gong Li’s older jealous Geisha in Memoirs of a Geisha mirroring those moments when Li would whisper maliciously into Zhang Ziyi’s face: In one of the instances of this in Unbroken, the corporal does this for the second half of a speech that is supposed to be addressed toward an entire POW camp.

Finally, let this film re-introduce you to Jack O’Connell’s flared nostrils which deserve their own credits because they played a very large role in the film.


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