Compared to Louie Zamperini, Job had it easy. After crashing in the Pacific in World War Two, Zamperini drifted in a lifeboat for 47 days before being sent to a POW camp in Japan, where the commandant took a personal interest in making Zamperini's life hellacious.

Unbroken is a fitting title for this excruciating cinematic treatment of the flyboy's ordeal. It plays like an endless, unrelieved gauntlet of suffering, an onslaught untempered by grace or redemption.

If director Angelina Jolie was aiming for torture, she hit the mark. As a movie, this misses on many levels.

Most crucially, it's hard to make any emotional connection with the protagonist. That's due partially to the dutiful performance of British actor Jack O'Connell and partially to an utter lack of character development.

Zamperini is presented as a steadfast hero. How did he acquire his indomitable spirit? Apparently it was an awakening sparked by a short, rather banal when-the-going-gets-tough pep talk delivered by his older brother (John D'Leo in his earliest incarnation).

It seems incredible that the Coen brothers had a hand in writing this screenplay, because everyone speaks in platitudes.

The 47 days in the life raft (joined by American Horror Story's Finn Wittrock and Chris Martin lookalike Domhnall Gleeson as crewmates from the crashed bomber) seem to transpire in real time. Remarkably, as they drift, Zamperini's facial hair grows in as a neat Van Dyke.

Jolie handles the large-scale scenes well, such the air battles and the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, in which Zamperini competed as a distance runner - a dicey athletic proposition because O'Connell doesn't seem like he could beat even Tom Cruise in a sprint.

But the smaller, more intimate sequences, which make up most of the film, have no brio. The narrative is strikingly plodding and there are no charismatic performances to pull you through the long, infuriatingly dull passages.

What should be the movie's dramatic linchpin - Zamperini vowing to dedicate the rest of his life to God if only he can survive his time adrift - has no payoff. It's just a desperate foxhole prayer.

Unbroken is a grueling endurance test - for the audience just as much as for its cutout champion.

Unbroken *1/2 (Out of four stars)

Directed by Angelina Jolie. With Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Takamasa Ishihara, C.J. Valleroy. Distributed by Universal Pictures.

Running time: 2 hours, 17 mins.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, brutality, profanity)

Playing at: Area theatersEndText

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