Directed by:  Angelina Jolie

Starring: Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Takamasa Ishihara, Finn Witrock, and Jai Courtney

Written by Joel and Ethan Coen, Unbroken chronicles the amazing life of Olympian Louis Zamperini.  I approached Unbroken with extreme reluctance.  The film interrupted my traditional A Christmas Story, Elf and Home Alone Christmas marathon.  Moreover, a film about survival, resilience and redemption did not fit in with my festive holiday spirit.  However, Unbroken exceeded my expectations, and left me wanting to learn more about Louie Zamperini’s incredibly journey.

Louie (C.J. Valleroy/Jack O’Connell) was the young son of Italian immigrants living in Torrance, California in the early 1930’s.  Louie is constantly getting into mischief much to the embarrassment of his hard-working parents.  His older brother Pete is concerned about Louie and attempts to get him to channel his energy into something positive.  Pete has Louie try out for the track team.  Louie develops a skill at long distance running and he becomes a local legend.  Louie is so talented that he ultimately wins a space on the U.S. Olympic team and competes at an international level.

Louie’s tale does not end in athletic glory, however.  After competing in the Olympics, Louie fights as a bombardier in the Air Force during World War II.  Louie and ten other men are sent on a search and rescue mission to find some missing airmen.  However, the plane they are given for their mission is a well-known “lemon” and crashes into the ocean.  Only Louie, Phil (Domhnall Gleeson) and Mac (Finn Wittrock) survive the crash.  Despite minimal food and water, they survive for forty-seven days in the middle of the ocean.  At day 47, they are rescued and then imprisoned as prisoners of war at savage Japanese war camps.  Despite surviving harrowing conditions stranded at sea, Louie’s true torment does not begin until he meets Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara), the head of one of the war camps.

Directed by Angelina Jolie, Unbroken is incredibly powerful and action-packed.  Jolie captures the intensity of each situation that Louie finds himself in.  Whether, he is running in a race, avoiding sharks in a raft, or being tortured in a P.O.W. camp, the audience lives each moment with Louie. Notably, however, it is the source material that makes this film so interesting.  Truth can be more phenomenal than fiction.  As I watched the film, I was frankly awestruck by Louie Zamperini’s life.  It seemed beyond belief that someone could survive being stranded in the ocean for 47 days only to then be thrown into a box in the woods and then emotionally and physically tormented for months.  If this movie was a work of fiction, the torture that Zamperini endured would seem excessive.  His story is so compelling that the remarkable truth of his tale gives the film momentum.

Zamperini’s story is timely as well.  With the recent release of reports regarding the CIA, torture and the U.S.’s treatment of suspected terrorists has been prevalent in the news.  One cannot help but look at the treatment of Zamperini and think about humanity, war and the boundaries that should not be crossed from a human rights’ perspective.

The cast is impressive as well.  Jack O’Connell is noble, angry, proud and heroic as the lead character.  The one misstep for me is Takamasa Ishihara.  It does appear that the Bird, Zamperini’s torturer, was dastardly in real life, even after the war.  However, the Bird is a weirdly, overly dramatic caricature.  I do not know whether it was the actor or the direction, but the “villain” felt cartoonish.  Since so much of the film focuses on the Bird’s fixation on Zamperini, Ishihara’s depiction of the Bird weighs the film down.

Unbroken earns a 0.03% rating. Ishihara aside, Louie Zamperini’s story is a tale worth seeing.