Unbroken: The Movie that transformed Actress Angelina Jolie into a Full Fledge Director.
Once again I am entering the bantam weight ring of film criticism, awaiting your collective derision, mixed in with some hosannas. I found the 2 hour plus film quite long and somewhat tedious. The story involves an American Olympic runner, Louis Zamperini, who becomes a bombardier during WWII and is tortured in different Japanese prison camps until he and others are liberated by Allied forces. Usually a film like this would have been cut down by half of the amount with sharper editing and more tension points.
However, having said all that, I am still impressed that Angelina Jolie was able to undertake such a huge enterprise wherein combat action, personal reflection are interspersed with scenes of horrific Japanese torture by one, historical well-known Japanese War Criminal: Watanabe-The Bird. A significant portion of the latter part of the film depicts in graphic detail the horrendous tortures that Louie had to endure under the sadistic, homosexual Watanabe. What is exceedingly important about these scenes is that fact that many Americans were not aware that our soldiers, along with their counterparts in their respective armies-- British, Canadian, New Zealanders, Aussies, Dutch, Chinese, Russian—were all subjected to war crimes committed knowingly and intentionally by the Japanese Military under the direct command of Tojo who received orders from Emperor Hirohito.
Emperor Hirohito, like many of our own leaders, should have been subject to the International War Crimes Tribunal. However, thanks to the intervention of General Douglas MacArthur and Alfred Sloan [General Motors], Hirohito and various senior Japanese war criminals were never prosecuted for the atrocities they had committed during WWII. Clearly, I know about our saturation bombing of 60% of Japan and the eventual dropping of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; however, those actions did not mitigate in any way the Japanese refusal to admit the atrocities that they had committed in the Rape of Nanjing and the Bataan Death March; along with the relentless biological [bubonic, anthrax] attacks against innocent Chinese in Manchuria and Russians.
The film has appropriated a Christian narrative towards the end of the scene where Louie holds up a wooden beam in homage to the image of Christ. However, the movie really does not address the personal and national consequences of such barbaric activities committed by the Japanese High Military and Senior Political officials.
Why do I harp back again to this bete-noire?
When I wrote Blood Heat, some thirty years ago as a fictional account of the torture of our prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation of South East Asia, my Japanese publishers who had included the editor of the infamous Mishima, the Japanese writer who committed Hara-Kari, refused to allow the book into Japan. The Japanese also banned me from coming to do a book tour. In turn, the Brits, Aussies and Dutch took my book around Asia and allowed everyone from the Vietnamese to the Chinese read about some of the atrocities that Emperor Hirohito had personally ordered against the ‘gaijin’—foreigners.
Now, Angelina Jolie has addressed a new generation of Japanese youth with a truthful, restrained portrayal of those atrocities. I commend her and her team, including Clayton Townsend [producer] as well as the actors who had to re-enact the barbarism of Japan that has been edited out of the official history of Japan. Unlike Germany, Japan has refused to confront their own history and their collective inhumane brutality under Hirohito. Thank you Universal Pictures for keeping this picture in development for fifty years. Thank you Angelina Jolie for once again, taking on a brave subject about the horrors of wars.
To Ms Jolie: Your first film, The Land of Blood and Honey, brilliantly depicting the Balkan Wars was the first hint of a prodigious directorial talent which feared nothing---not a contemptible subject matter rife with death, torture and sadism. Nor were you afraid to undertake a production that would have daunted even the best of our directors in terms of complexity of shots and subject matters. May you find satisfaction in your remarkable achievement. Hollywood may be jealous of a woman of your beauty and eccentricity [real or not] and might deny you a deserved reward. So keep on directing….