Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Second "Unbroken" Trailer Gives Us a Look at Lot of Potential Greatness

Jack O'Connell
Among the many films coming out this Christmas, there isn't a single one with as much Oscar buzz as director Angelina Jolie's Unbroken. While this isn't her first directorial effort (In the Land of Blood and Honey), it looks like her sophomore effort has a lot more going for it. It feels focused and takes a rather interesting angle on a familiar subject. With the second trailer recently released, the film feels more confident than ever to be one to look out for. It may feature a lot of familiar footage, but it introduces new scenes and a whole lot of reasons to care about the film.

It is hard to explain why, but Jolie has been somebody who I have had trouble being interested in. Her seductress personality doesn't really make her films all that enjoyable. Basically, it feels like you see her films more for her presence than her performance. The one catch is that I haven't seen too much of her as a director, which makes this a rather interesting selection. Along with it being co-written by Joel and Ethan Coen as well as Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson, this looks to be a passionate collaboration of a particularly important part of history.

The only question really is why this film feels important right now. It is yet another World War II film that comes out during the 100th anniversary of World War I. Also, with The Monuments Men and Fury not necessarily being the strongest Oscar contenders, it seems like an uphill battle for Unbroken to get legitimate praise. In fact, the last WWII movie to be released (The Book Thief) only received one nomination - Best Original Score, which was most likely because of John Williams' name. Basically, war films haven't been doing great in recent years. It could be that none have captured the zeitgeist in interesting ways. Or it could just be that none have really been that great.

There's no guarantee that the pattern will hold, but this does fall right during the prime awards season. If there was one issue with the Best Picture category last year, it was that the entire category was released in a post-October time. This lacks confidence that any film before that this year stands a great chance. While I argue that this isn't the case from a quality perspective, I am curious to see how the field plays out. Still, December 25 is wildly considered a prime spot for Best Picture contenders because more likely than not, your film will stand a better chance to get nominated. Unbroken looks to be doing just that.

Check out the trailer below:

Looks pretty good. Maybe it seems a little bloated and gives too much away, but for once I am grateful for that. As readers will likely know,  have had a longstanding disinterest in Chariots of Fire, which I consider to be the worst Best Picture winner. There's something about Olympics and running that leaves me cold. Thankfully, it is only a small proponent of the film and instead is only the catalyst for a lot more interesting things at play. There's the actual war and overcoming struggles in prison camps. It all looks so compelling in ways that few other war films as of late have looked.

Here's the plot synopsis according to IMDb:
"A chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II."
Sounds pretty interesting. Provided that Jack O'Connell can turn in a great performance, I can see this film standing a strong chance at the Oscars. While my blind faith vote has long been in betting Foxcatcher as the front runner, I have always considered this to be a strong potential upset. It could win on the fact that Jolie is an established name and has enough credibility to win just like Robert Redford (Ordinary People), Richard Attenborough (Ghandi), Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves), Mel Gibson (Braveheart) and Ben Affleck (Argo) to name a few. I do hope that it comes down to quality. I really, really do.

So far, the general news on IMDb is that advanced screenings have not featured any additional score. Speaking as someone who has enjoyed a lot of Alexandre Desplat's music in the past, and especially this year, I am very curious to see how this one shakes out. I find that his war-themed music is especially strong. With the doubling up of Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, he covered all of the bases of nuanced creativity in ways that impacted the scenes beautifully. I can only assume that this will be his long overdue chance at winning, provided that the film is as triumphant and memorable as this trailer makes it out to be. This is more of a small nitpick than an actual prognosis. The score could be horrible for all I know, though I really hope not.

The film has a lot of potential to sweep the ceremony, and that is exciting. It would be the first war film to win since 2009's The Hurt Locker and the first World War II film to win since 1996's The English Patient. It would also be quite an achievement if Jolie managed to also stand her ground as a director in the race. While the category has gotten more progressive in the past few years, there's still a need to continue. Only one woman has won Best Director before (Kathryn Bigelow - The Hurt Locker) and it seems unfair for her to be singled out. Still, it should be judged based solely on the work and not the taboos. Here's hoping that Unbroken delivers something greatly missing from contemporary war films.

Will Unbroken get a Best Picture nomination? Is Angelina Jolie a better director than an actress? What will that Alexandre Desplat score sound like?

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