WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS
Louis “Louie” Zamperini, and US Olympian, is trying to sort out his life. He eventually joins the air force during WW2. He gets shipped out and his first flight crew gets shot up. They crash land safely back on the main base and then relax some in Hawaii. They eventually get geared up and get shipped back out, again. This time they crash land in the ocean and most of the crew dies. Eventually the Japanese find them and take them as prisoners.
Many are upset because this didn’t get a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Well for 1) Boo hoo and 2) the reason it didn’t get a Best Picture nomination because it was mildly boring. This is a great film. It has some great inspirational parts. It shows very tasteful violence, rather the in your face visuals like Saving Private Ryan or Fury. It also has some decent character development for the main characters. The MAJOR down side is that it has painfully long scenes where it’s nothing but scenery or waiting for something to happen. Like the first 30 minutes of the movies basically portrays the young Zamperini as a young douche, but a justifiable douche since people can’t seem to find better things to do in the 50s then to live up to stereotypes and beat on the only Italian kid in town. The next 10 are about his Olympic achievements and him going into the air force during WW2. After that it’s about a HOUR of them sitting on a rafter and suffering from sunburn, dehydration, and eating birds or fish raw.
Later in the film he gets caught by the Japanese. They basically beat the shit out of him for the next our in various fashions. More stuff happens. The guards there play mindgames. Eventually Mutsuhiro ‘The Bird’ Watanabe is introduced and is the main antagonist from then on. In all honesty not a whole lot happens. Yes, it shows the resilience of Mr. Zamperini and his flat out determination to not be broke by a bunch of sadistic people, and you know, not die. But I’m sure we’ve all seen this before.
Jack O’Connell was great as a smart-ass ish kinda role while still portraying Zamperini as a very level headed man in extreme conditions. His best scene was with the main antagonist. His face poured hatred for the man, but sat there with dignity while Watanabe said he got a promotion. Domhnall Gleeson was good as Zamperini’s friend Phil, however there wasn’t much to the role. He, like Zamperini, was basically whipped the crap out of a lot. He was the softer soul during some of the more intense scenes and did them very well. Takamasa Ishihara was the infamous Watanabe. He was probably one of the more stand out performances from the movie. He did a great job portraying someone totally sadistic and just out right strange at times.
This is a great inspirational story, but it’s rather boring due to the drawn out scenes. Yes it has a positive message of ‘never give up on yourself,’ but we’ve seen it before. Also with this being a World War 2 movie I kinda found it to be drab. Do we really need to be reminded we fought the Japanese again? On top of that there are better WW2 prison movies, like The Great Escape. For a more positive note: it’s BEAUTIFULLY shot, fantastic music scores and has some great acting in it. It’s worth watching in theaters or at least once.