As I watched the interludes of home-video-style memories in Still Alice, my mind traveled back to Don Draper’s iconic Kodak presentation in the first-season finale of Mad Men. In it, he pitched them on calling their famous slideshow device not a wheel, but a carousel, the idea being that it could take you on a journey to your past and back again during which you’d experience all those old emotions; whether painful or happy, you’d revisit the signposts and experiences that have made you who you are.
In Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure, a young, attractive Swedish family starts a ski vacation. The husband and wife happily and easily share the hotel suite’s bathroom as they get ready for their first day on the slopes. The wife shows off photos of her kids to interested strangers. After a fun, relaxed day, the couple and their two young kids nap in the same bed. The wife lightly teases the husband about his phone addiction; he accepts the ribbing with good humor. They’re a solid family unit, their roles comfortably and clearly defined.
The early life of Olympic runner and Japanese WWII P.O.W. Louis Zamperini, who sadly passed away only a few months ago, is entirely worthy of a film, and if nothing else, Unbroken makes it clear how important a story director Angelina Jolie considers it. That’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s the latter because, probably thanks to her laudable desire not to give Zamperini’s life short shrift, she lets many scenes go on entirely too long, taking the air out of important developments and making it seem – ironically given her aforementioned affinity for the story – like she has no point of view about it. But it’s also the former, because the craft and care Jolie puts into the film ensures that at its best, it’s epic, enthralling, and inspirational.