Unbroken tells an amazing true life story of a real man, Louis Zamperini. Director Angelina Jolie’s film has flaws but still manages to bring Zamperini to life impressively.
He is played by Jack O’Connell, an Irishman, who does a credible job portraying this 2nd generation Italian-American. Like the young Zamperini, O’Connell is classically handsome.
Zamperini is a track star who makes it to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. During World War II his plane is shot down in the Pacific. He survives 47 days at sea. He is rescued by the Japanese who imprison him.
During his imprisonment, he is teased, tortured and abused by a Japanese officer he nicknames Bird. Zamperini’s physical and mental toughness inspires the other prisoners and gains him a small amount of respect from his captors. Then, the war ends.
Among the film’s flaws is the strange beard growth (or lack of it) by men stranded at sea for 7 weeks and by men in prison camps. Much of the time in life rafts was less realistic than one would expect from a modern film—it appears many scenes were shot in a tank or pool, not so perilous as being adrift in the ocean.
Jolie and scriptwriters Ethan and Joel Coen have a lot of story to cram into a 2-hour movie. They do an admirable job of presenting Zamperini’s life highlights and lowlights and imparting an appreciation of the man’s character.
The film is based on Lauren Hillenbrand’s best-selling book which, according to synopses I’ve read, contained more light-hearted moments that helped Zamperini survive prison camp.
Unbroken was an early frontrunner for awards nominations. Now that the film has been widely previewed, the buzz has diminished. Still, Zamperini’s story has enough moments to make you admire this man who you may have never heard of. Unbroken is also constructed to provoke a bit of old-fashioned American pride. And it does!