Saturday, December 6, 2014

UNBROKEN edges out FURY as WWII Drama

If you see only one WWII movie this season, I recommend UNBROKEN over FURY.

Fury had some really compelling scenes, great acting, intense battle sequences, and occasional moral questions, but I had the same problem with it that I had with the director's previous movie (END OF WATCH): It feels like a "Bro" movie. It feels like the Frat Boy with a degree in History, who really liked SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, decided to make a WWII film. It almost touches greatness, but every time it almost gets there, it takes a douchey turn. Brad Pitt essentially plays the "serious" version of Lt. Aldo Raine from BASTERDS– in other words, if FURY had been released first, Raine would be the satirical version of Pitt's serious performance here (that's not a bad thing; Pitt is excellent, as are ALL the cast).

UNBROKEN, OTOH, has the advantage of actually being a True Story, stars virtually all unknown but seriously talented Actors, and lets you actually empathize with the characters in a way you can't with the FURY crew. Set in the Pacific Theater of the War, the air combat scenes are unrivaled by any I've seen in recent film. Both the elation over survival and the sorrow of losing comrades are given equal due, and while sentimental, it's never preachy. The flashback sequences to the hero's youth are a bit on the nose, but essential and vital. This film will probably make its lead, Jack O'Connell, a movie star. And director Angelina Jolie with her 2nd feature is starting to (believe it or not) take up the mantle of Clint Eastwood as the next great actor-turned-director. If you're worried that this somehow feminizes it, you're wrong. The cast is almost exclusively male, and they are just as macho as men should be, but unlike the soldiers in FURY, they still understand the concept of dignity and honor even under the most painful and degrading of conditions.  See it.

P.S. The 2 women to my right at this Academy screening were much more shocked at the heroes killing birds and fish to SURVIVE while adrift at sea for weeks with no other food, than they were at the many human deaths and suffering. Ain't people funny? :)

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