Figuratively speaking, I had to run a mile to still catch this film as most cinemas had already taken it out of their programme. It was so worth it!
Unbroken tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, an American athlete and war hero with Italian roots. Encouraged by his brother he first becomes a runner in the 1930's. A really good one actually because in 1936 he takes part in the Olympic Games in by-then Nazi-Germany.
A few years later, the Second World War is in full blow and Zamperini is right in the middle of it when his bomber plane crashes into the Pacific Ocean. Only Zamperini and two comrades make it out of the water into a lifeboat. Surviving on fish (even sharks) and rain water, Zamperini and one of his comrades amazingly survive for 47 days at sea, but are then captured by the Japanese.
In a Japanese prisoner of war camp, Zamperini's will to survive is tested to the extreme once more. This time, the uttermost cruel overseer Mutsushiro Watanabe, called "the Bird", is making the life of the former athlete a living hell. But Zamperini doesn't give up that easily…
Even though the film's setting is America and then Japan, the production of Angelina Jolie's masterpiece was a truly Australian affair! Pretty much all filming took place down under. For example, the scenes at sea were shot Moreton Bay, and some at Werris Creek, New South Wales. Cockatoo Island (New South Wales) also served as a great backdrop for this incredible drama.
Jack O'Connell, who plays Louis Zamperini, is of course the star of this film. I was really intrigued to see O'Connell, who in reality and all of his previous films and TV work always talks in the most authentic British working class accent. Thus, it's a bit weird to see him pretending to speak like an American. He manages this quite well though.
What's a lot more astonishing is how much weight he actually lost for this feature. When I saw the first promo images from the scenes in the prisoner of war camp I almost did not recognize O'Connell – extremely skinny and with black hair. The same applies to Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock, who played the two comrades that Zamperini was with on the boat, as well as to (oh, hello hottie!) Garrett Hedlund. I always find it very impressive how many pounds actors can shed for a role.
On the Japanese side, I was totally impressed by Miyavi's performance. After having watched the film I learned that Miyavi is actually a Japanese indie rock star and that Unbroken was his first ever acting role. He was perfect as the sadistic Watanabe. As it's such an unlikeable character, it must be even more difficult to play him.
My verdict: A gripping tale from start to finish, brilliantly acted and directed! Don't miss Ange's masterpiece!
***** 5 out of 5 stars
What amazing war hero stories do you know? Write it down in the comments section!