I’m on record about the book this film is based on. I think it’s a masterpiece. This film, unfortunately, falls far short of that. I think a big problem with the film is that it simply has too much ground to cover. I think the book would have been far better suited to be a miniseries where it could have stretched out and spent some time on the different beats. As it is, we sort of do a mad dash from childhood to Olympics to plane combat to raft to prison camp and none of it ever really gets a chance to land emotionally. The supporting characters aren’t even given short shrift; more like no shrift, though the always solid Domnhall Gleeson manages to give a good enough performance that his character actually kind of registers. O’Connell, a British actor that I’m very interested in, after the hugely acclaimed Starred Up & the gripping action thriller 71, is as good as the movie lets him be. The moments that do feel real are all thanks to his performance. But the film just doesn’t have the emotional power of the book; it’s not dark enough in the dark moments and in the moments of triumph, it achieves only hokey platitudes instead of genuine uplift. Maybe the best thing about this movie is that it will interest people in the book, which I’ve probably talked about enough. It’s well made in the technical sense; Jolie has a good enough eye as director to occasionally create good images and to never be worse than adequate. I mean, it won’t hurt you to see it, but I wouldn’t recommend it either really. Whatever. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – film unfortunately loses the power of the source material due to incredibly fast pace and pretty superficial script; never dreadful, but it should have been so much more. 2 ½ stars.