Complete A-Z list

Unbroken (DQ)


Stars: Jack O'Connell, Domnhall Gleeson, Miyavi, Garrett Hedlund, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro, Jai Courtney, Luke Treadaway, Alex Russell

Director: Angelina Jolie

It's been a while since we had a proper WW2 Japanese prison camp story - only The Railway Man springs to mind - and this well-made but overlong film is an epic story of survival under extreme duress.

Louie Zamperini (Brit O'Connell with a flawless American accent) is a street kid headed for juvenile court when his brother persuades him to take up running (he's had lots of practice fleeing the cops). Louie proves a phenomenon on track, qualifying for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and performing with distinction.

We meet him when, thwarted of a second Olympics by the outbreak of war, he's part of a bomber crew that narrowly escape a crash landing, only to be sent on another mission in a patched-up plane that promptly blows two engines and dumps them in the ocean.

Up to here, the film has been right on target, with impressive scenes of aerial warfare, as seen from inside the cramped confines of the hero's bomber. Louie is one of three survivors who drift on a life raft for 45 days - the boys don't seem to have completely forgotten their razors - and it's here that the film starts to founder; the sequence, though appropriately gruelling, is just too long.

Eventually fished out by a Jap warship, Louie quickly finds himself in a brutal prison camp, soon falling foul of the sadistic chief guard, The Bird (Miyavi), an embittered young sadist who carries a long bamboo stick, with which he dishes out merciless beatings. He makes it his personal mission to break Louie's spirit.

Offered a comfy life if he, as a celebrity, makes pro-Japanese broadcasts, Louie returns to the camp...

Jolie doesn't flinch at depicting the horrendous conditions older cinemagoers will have seen in countless war films before, and her cast respond well, although some of the minor roles are less impressively played and main protagonists do somewhat lack personality.

David Quinlan

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour (unspecified).
137 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 21 Dec 2014