Nothing says “Christmas” quite like an epic story of struggle, survival and triumph over impossible odds… at the movies anyway. This holiday promises to be just as stirring and emotional thanks to Unbroken, the latest directorial venture from Angelina Jolie. Based on an incredible true story, the film charts the life of Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), an Olympic track star who was gunned down during World War II, stranded at sea, and kept as a prisoner of war at a Japanese internment camp until the end of the war. It’s a dark, intense and incredibly inspiring story, but unfortunately, the first full trailer only serves to highlight one of those elements.
There’s no doubt that the trailer gives plenty of attention to the darker moments of Zamperini’s experiences – the scene where soldiers line up to punch him in the face should be enough of an indication of the terrible conditions that he endured – but there’s something about the way the clip is cut together that makes Unbroken look a bit, well, cheesy. Maybe it’s the swelling violins in the background, maybe it’s the dramatic text overlay, or maybe it’s the washed-out filter that the first half of the trailer has, but the trailer gives off the impression that Unbroken is just a generic, corny tearjerker.
To an extent, we get it. It’s already difficult to cut a trailer the shows off the best aspects of the movie, teases more to come, and showcases what the film is about without completely giving away the plot. For a film like Unbroken, which is centered on someone who most moviegoers might not be familiar with and whose story is epic and wide-spanning, it’s even more challenging, as the trailer needs to outline who Louis Zamperini is, what he went through, and why we should care, while at the same attempting to make it look like an attractive, entertaining experience. But the trailer doesn’t make his story look unique; it just makes it look like another Oscar baiting film that will probably make you cry.
It’s still disappointing though, primarily because it plays down the more compelling parts of the story in favor of sweeping, emotional beats and moments of patriotism designed to appeal to the widest, most mainstream audience possible. And while it makes perfect sense that studios would want to make the trailer as inoffensive as possible in order to attract a larger audience, it keeps Unbroken from standing out amongst all of the other emotional, life-affirming dramas that will flood movie theaters around the same time. Mostly though, the cheesy trailer makes us worried that the film itself is the same kind of pandering, melodramatic Oscar bait that the winter months have become famous for. We’re not interested in seeing an interesting, complicated, moving true story simplified in order to try and win awards. We want to see a movie about Zamperini because we’re interested in his story, no matter how dark or depressing it might be at times.
Of course, trailers are never a good indication of what the final film actually looks like, but watching the teaser for Unbroken, we can’t help but hope that the story was cheesed-up for advertising purposes only. Maybe for the next trailer, the editors could try a little less violin?
Unbroken opens in theaters on Christmas day.