Unbroken, a true story based on U.S. POW and Olympic runner Louie Zamperini, is a reminder of good, evil, entwined with the power of our human spirit. Director Angelina Jolie and writers and Joel and Ethan Coen, introduce to the terror of drifting 2,000 miles in the open Pacific for 47 days, the horrors of being in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp under a sadistic ruler, transitioning us beautifully into Zamperini’s psychological strength with a rare feminine lens.
Jolie, a mom of six, thought of her children and the power of Louie’s generation during the 14 weeks of filming in Australia.
“You think about this great generation and the values they had. How they were as men and I think it’s one we want to raise our children and remind them of their sense of family and community,” said Jolie. “I want my children to know about men like Louie. When they feel bad about themselves and they think all is lost, they know they’ve got something inside of them. You don’t have to be a perfect person or a saint or a hero. Louie was very flawed, very human, but made great choices and again, was a great man.”
Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s popular book based of the same name, the film opens with with Louie (Jack O’ Connell), on the shaky Super Man, with Captain Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips played by stage and screen actor Domhnall Gleeson, and tail gunner Francis “Mac” McNamara (Finn Wittrock). Finn Wittrock admitted he was compelled to do “Mac’s spirit justice, even though there’s not much known about the gunner who perished on the raft on the Pacific.
To look like men that were malnourished--the actors refrained from eating, and it proved challenging, and at point the contact lenses used for cosmetic purposes to show dehydration didn’t fit O’ Connell since he lost so much weight.
“He could be any of our grandfathers, and I think we all kind of felt that sense of responsibility and when you had four blueberries for breakfast, you pushed yourself because you want the story to be told,” Wittrock said.
We see Zamperini’s Italian home, church, and his mischievous childhood pursuits until track his brother Pete encourages him to run track. Threaded in the story is one of Zamperini’s searching for God. He was raised Catholic, Captain Russell introduced him to prayer, and shows Louie making a deal with God that if he survived that he would serve Him--he did.
Musician and actor MIYAVI is lead camp guard, Mutsuhiro Watanabe (“The Bird”), who made Zamperini’s life a hell in camp, has a tremendous presence. The most profound moment was when the “The Bird” was transferred to the Allied prisoner camp Naoetsu, and so was Zamperini. He was commanded by “The Bird” to hold up a long cherry wood plank over his head. If he didn’t, he was to be shot. Louie did this for over 30 minutes, and his defiance won the psychological battle.
“The Bird” eyes filled with tears, dropping to his knees in disbelief as the sun set, and his frame cast over Louie’s. “I was half way through his book, and I felt inspired, and on fire, and feeling better. [To] be reminded of the strength of the human spirit, and the strength of a brother like Pete, and to remind us to be that for each other,” said Jolie who bonded with Louie before he passed in July at 97.
“I realized if this was having this effect on me, and I know it had this effect on so many other people-- isn’t this what we needed to put forward into the world at this time? I believe it is…”
Louie dealt with depression and Post-traumatic stress disorder after the war. He embraced Christianity after hearing Billy Graham speak in 1949, and sought to forgive his tormentors. “The Bird” declined.
Unbroken releases on Christmas Day. Go to http://www.unbrokenfilm.com/ for more insight into this inspirational film.