Aesthetically Speaking

WWII saga recounts U.S. Olympian’s ordeal as brutalized POW

Do you remember how, “Infamous,” a biopic about Truman Capote, was released right on the heels of the one entitled “Capote?” But because the latter had already received considerable critical acclaim, including an Oscar for the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Johnnie-come-lately had little chance of making more than a blip on the radar.

The same fate might befall “Unbroken,” a World War II saga directed by Angelina Jolie. The parallels between this picture and “The Railway Man” are impossible to ignore, since they both recall the real-life ordeal of a POW tortured by a sadistic, Japanese officer.

“The Railway Man,” which opened last April, was based on Eric Lomax’s autobiography, and starred the charismatic Colin Firth in the title role opposite Tanroh Ishida as the sick interrogator who seemed to take pleasure in beating him mercilessly. Although Lomax would survive Singapore, he was left traumatized by the grueling ordeal, and ultimately attempted to exorcise his demons by returning to Southeast Asia to track down his abuser.

The correspondingly-themed “Unbroken” was adapted from the Laura Hillenbrand’s (Seabiscuit) best-seller of the same name recounting bombardier Louie Lamperini’s (Jack O’Connell) struggle to survive a POW camp in Tokyo after his plane crashed in the Pacific during a rescue mission. Because he had represented the U.S. in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, he was singled out for special mistreatment by a cruel prison guard (Takamasa Ishihara). And later in life, he would return to the Orient to try to confront that evil creep who’d singled him out for an extra measure of persecution.

“Unbroken,” like “The Railway Man,” even ends with a touching, closing credits photo montage featuring snapshots of both the hero and his tormentor which only added to this critic’s profound sense of déjà vu. An honorable, historical drama who’s primary flaw rests in its being released too soon after a more-compelling biopic revolving around similar subject-matter.

An uplifting tribute to the indomitability of the human spirit.

125181 galVery Good (2.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for brief profanity and intense brutality
In English, Italian and Japanese with subtitles
Running time: 137 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures

To see a trailer for “Unbroken,” visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8mBzKLhL0U

January 12, 2015
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