Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken (Universal, 12.25) opened today. Sold a decent amount of tickets but didn’t do so well with the critics — 59% on Metacritic, 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. Who saw it and what did you think? And how did “the room” feel? How did it seem to play with Joe and Jane? Seriously…I’m asking. Maybe on some level it’s connecting. What do I know?
I saw Jolie’s film on 11.30. The next day I called it respectable, well-crafted Christian torture porn. I acknowledged that it “comes straight from Angie’s heart and innards so you can’t call it dispassionate or cynical…as problematic as some aspects of Unbroken are for me, I respect Angie for her devotion to a story she cares about and believes in on more than one level, and the film for its honesty and craft levels.”
I also said the following:
(a) “I began looking at my watch around the 60-minute mark, but I was never dozing or uninterested or bored — I just don’t like being tortured, starved and beaten for 27 months straight, which is what occupies the last 75 minutes.”
(b) “Unbroken is basically a film about the nobility of long-term suffering, and how that can be (and can be made to seem like) a good thing in a spiritual sense. Or…you know, a good thing if you take the long God’s-eye view. Because in a close-up sense being tortured and beaten and deprived in three Japanese prisoner-of-war camps is a ghastly situation for Jack O’Connell‘s Louis Zamperini, a real-life guy and subject of Laura Hillenbrand‘s best-selling “Unbroken” who passed last July at age 97. And it’s really not that much of a swell picnic for the audience, truth be told. But it delivers a good kind of suffering. One that feels vaguely Christian and conservative on some level.”
(c) “I respect every technical aspect of Unbroken — Roger Deakin‘s cinematography, the performances, the verisimilitude of the flying and bombing scenes, the superb sound editing, the Berlin Olympic triumph, the teenage turbulence, etc. The prison camp material (jungle camp, Tokyo camp and a coal-mine camp, all of them colored by the same sadism and brutality) is well shaped and very nicely captured. Portions are oddly beautiful or at least striking.”
(d) “I choose to believe that Unbroken is essentially about two personal things. One is Angie’s obviously genuine admiration for Louis and the grand theme of his story, which is basically ‘if you can take it you can make it’. The other thing is Angie’s obvious interest in stories about people getting beaten and subjugated and put through hell,” and the notion that “there’s something noble and cleansing and soul-soothing about prolonged agony at the hands of sadists.”
(e) “Unbroken reminded me in some respects of Mel Gibson‘s The Passion of the Christ as well as Apocalypto, that other Gibson film about horrible gougings and slicings and beatings.”