I missed Angelina Jolie’s In The Land Of Blood And Honey (2011), but if it was as bad as reports suggest, this second effort might at least get a tick for being an improvement.
Otherwise, it is fair to say that it’s on the nose as well.
Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) was an American Olympian. He ran at the 1936 Berlin Games, joined the Air Force when WWII broke out, crashed into the Pacific with the rest of his bombing crew and, as a prisoner of war, endured inhumane treatment at the hands of his Japanese captors.
The Coen brothers, noted for their often quirky (if not to say indulgent) stories, are two of the four credited screenwriters, but one can only surmise that they were out to lunch when the script was being drafted, for it is jam-packed with every boys’ own horrorshow cliché – and then some.
The opening sequence, of an air fight, is brilliantly shot, but then we get the standard time jump to Louis’s youth (for a minute I thought I was watching a re-run of Forest Gump), followed by a terribly long act-2 in which Louis and a couple of other survivors are adrift in a dinghy, and then the even longer incarceration in the PoW camp.
The shark-infested former is drearier than the actual experience must have been and the latter is just one cruelty after another.
Talk about sadism – Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara) makes ISIL and Boko Haram look like the Muppets on a picnic. By the time poor old Louis was receiving his umpteenth whack in the head with a bamboo truncheon, I wanted to cry out ‘enough, Ange! Enough!’
And that’s all there is to it. If there is any surprise at all, it is that Ishihara is a handsome young man who in another movie might have been the ‘good Jap’.
With 2015 being the centenary of Gallipoli, we can only expect more of this dumb and ugly exploitation of the tragedy of war.
~ John Campbell