The heartbreaking story of how Louis Zamperini went from being an Olympic runner to being in a Japanese prisoner of war camp; after surviving a plane crash into the ocean during WWII, 3 men were stranded with minimal supplies and a low chance of survival until finally rescued, but by the Japanese navy where they are transferred to an internment camp. Zamperini’s story is one of strength and hope, an almost unbelievable portrayal of what a person can go through and still come out alive, the second directorial work of Angelina Jolie and starring Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Miyavi, Finn Wittrock, Jai Courtney, Luke Treadaway and John Magaro. Jack O’Connell’s career has been on the rise for a few years now, he may have started out on British television but surely enough he has worked his way over to Hollywood (especially considering in his next big film, Money Monster, he stars alongside George Clooney and Julia Roberts), he’s an actor with a lot to offer and he’s the predominant reason to watch this film other than for Zamperini’s story itself. O’Connell gives a fantastic performance as Louis and seemingly does justice for the great man whose life he is imitating. As for the rest of the cast, both Gleeson and Wittrock give great performances while alongside O’Connell drifting at sea, but with Hedlund giving us the basic stoic package which seems to be his specialty and the majority of the other roles having little impact on the story itself, they could probably be interchanged for other actors while making much of a difference. Then there’s Miyavi whom it is difficult to decide whether his performance was good or bad; he does invoke that infuriating vigor for the audience that’s required for your general cruel prison guard but there is also something strange about his performance, it’s clear he’s trying to convey a sense of being conflicted but it comes across more as confusion, playing as if the actor himself is unsure whether the character is conflicted or not, changing from one moment to the next rather than fluidly.
I cannot deny that this is an unbelievable story of the strength of a man put through an inordinate amount of pain and suffering, and you do get the essence of that on screen; the problem with the film is the distribution of time to each part of the story, spending a lot on their struggles at sea and within the prison camps, but when it arrives at its resolution it feels much passed over and given little importance. The film gives a decent sense of the horrors these men went through during the war, and yet it feels as though it is slightly meandering; the film finds its feet quickly with a strong opening but gradually starts to feel as though it is simply showing the events in general rather than with any aim or direction. The strength of Zamperini is without a doubt shown throughout the whole of the film but that appears to be it, several examples of how great of a man he is without direction; there is value in that strength but it needs something more to push it beyond a great film to an unforgettable one.
This is an interesting film about a remarkable man under horrifying circumstances of war, one of, I’m sure many that there are that we are unaware about, and is inspiratioanl however it lacks the final push to make it an amazing film. The film benefits from Zamperini’s life story and with good acting and direction but lets itself down with a mediocre and unsatisfying ending to 2 hours of watching men suffer.