Angelina Jolie made a wise choice of movie for her directorial debut; the life story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic athlete turned U.S. Air Force Captain could not help but make a great film. With Unbroken, Jolie picked an essentially fail-safe story to tell, and she succeeded in not making it a failure. However, she didn’t take the story’s potential to nearly as great heights as Zamperini’s extraordinary life deserved..
Unbroken tells the inspirational true story of Zamperini’s survival against incredible odds during World War II. After his plane went down in the Pacific ocean, Zamperini floated in shark-infested waters on a raft for over a month. Zamperini then survived over two years in a Japanese POW camp before the war ended.
Jolie’s decisions as a director were passable at best. I found the storyline in the POW camp somewhat confusing. It was unclear how much time was passing, and the interactions between Zamperini and one of his captors was confusing. Very little music was used in the movie, and that absence weakened the emotional impact of the story.
The movie’s most significant flaw is how much important detail was left out from the book it is based upon. A significant portion of the book was about Zamperini’s life after the war and his religious devotion, but the movie ended with the end of the war, and merely displayed a few facts about Zamperini’s life after the war. Obviously movies have to cut out sections of the books upon which they are based, but Zamperini’s postwar religious journey was too important a section of the book to exclude.
While Jolie had some serious shortcomings as a director, the film’s remarkable source material still made for a very entertaining watch. The story of Zamperini’s incredible survival is inspiring regardless of how it is told, so I definitely recommend checking out Unbroken.