First of all, Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken looks like a breakout moment for Jack O’Connell, regardless of how the movie itself does overall. He stars as the real-life Louis Zamperini, who did more in his lifetime than we could do in five. Long distance Olympic athlete who met Hitler, WWII POW survivor, inspirational speaker, Zamerini had a hell of a biography before passing away July 2nd of this year. Now, his story will be secured in cinema with O’Connell at the forefront of what looks like a whirlwind performance.
Second of all, my fingers are crossed tight enough to break off circulation, hoping this movie isn’t even one tenth of how schmaltzy a slab of forced inspiration the trailer makes it out to be.
It makes sense that Universal would want to sell the movie like this – huge and bombastic with never-give-up lines worthy of Joel Osteen and joyous tears filtering the lens. It would also make sense for them to release different versions of the trailer, highlighting the pure war movie aspects, the sports movie aspects and even more American uplift. We’ve got a long way to go before December.
Knowing all of that, and knowing that Jolie can put together a drama that doesn’t use easy emotion as a crutch, I still insanely optimistic that she’ll deliver a sprawling epic this Christmas that features heroics and a stellar story worth celebrating. It’s just the 1% of my brain repeating the possibility that Oscar dreams will get in the way of quality; after all, stories that are organically inspirational can be the most difficult to tell because the allure of injecting even more over-the-nose inspiration is strong. Look no further than Amelia.
To that end, I’d like to compare this trailer to two similar trailers. One for Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor and one for Kang Je-kyu’s Mai Wei:
Unbroken’s trailer falls somewhere in the middle on the tonal scale, although there are two important things at play here. One, there’s an obvious pattern to making an advertisement for a war movie (especially one set in WWII) that they all abide by. Two, these are both deceptive (as all ads are).
You’d never know it from these trailers, but Pearl Harbor is mindlessly dull, and Mai Wei is by far the cheesier of the two. It’s a wonderful movie, but it’s also filled with soap operatics that are common for South Korean dramas. It goes from war scenes that would make Private Ryan blush to slow motion sequences where men speak in platitudes while hugging.
I find it difficult to imagine Unbroken could be either as thoughtless as Bay’s movie or as saccharine as Mai Wei, so I’m still buying the movie. I’m just not buying that trailer.