True stories of survival against the odds have always struck a chord with audiences for good reason. We all face our own struggles and to hear stories of strength, courage and persistence helps us deal with the obstacles in our own lives. There are many different variations on the survival movie from personal struggles to accidents and catastrophes to disease and loss. Angelina Jolie’s new film, Unbroken, concerns survival against one of the most common themes of the genre, war.
Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) is an Olympic athlete who joined the armed forces during World War II. But after a horrific plane crash leaves him stranded in the Pacific Ocean for 47 days only to be rescued by Japanese forces and sent to a series of POW camps where he was continually tortured and challenged by a demented captor determined to break Zamperini’s will.
Angelina Jolie is definitely a champion of the human spirit and Zamperini’s story seems custom made for her abilities behind the camera. Jolie directs with a confidence and passion that clearly comes from her personal beliefs in the subjects she chooses to make films from. While the book by Laura Hillenbrand that the film is based on goes into much more graphic details of Zamperini’s experiences, Unbroken still gets across his struggle, his bad luck and his utterly indomitable will to live. The screenplay is written by William Nicholson, Richard LaGravenese and The Coen Brothers and their influence and talent for telling rich character stories really shows through here. And the casting of Jack O’Connell was a brilliant move as well. Although O’Connell has been working steadily since 2005 in TV as well as films like Harry Brown and 300: Rise of an Empire, Unbroken is really the first film to showcase his talents on this scale and he lives up to the task spectacularly. He portrays an immovable force of positivity, he refuses to let even the most dire of circumstances crush his spirit, he believes in life too much. And as for Jolie, after the powerful In the Land of Blood and Honey and now this film, she is destined to be a force to be reckoned with in the director’s chair making not only entertaining films but ones with substance and power. Very highly recommended.