"Unbroken" will be Angelina Jolie's second directorial project after the Bosnian war story "In the Land of Milk and Honey." Both films depict the atrocities of war and the resilience of the human spirit. The actress was successful in taking the reins of this new film ahead of other directors and getting her first directing job with Universal Pictures.
Written by "Seabiscuit" author Laura Hillenbrand,"Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption" is a nonfiction book that was featured more than a dozen weeks on the New York Bestsellers list. The plot of the book-which will eventually be adapted for film production-revolves around a World War II story in which Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini becomes a prisoner of war. Famous names such as William Nicholson and Richard LaGravanese are behind the script of the film.
The ordeal and triumph of Zamperini's journey were first chronicled in his book "Devil at My Heels"-which was released in updated versions. However, the attention the plot received was drawn from Hillenbrand's extraordinary writing talent. Moved by her book, Angelina Jolie began an intense campaign to make the film. According to her, "Louis is a true hero and a man of immense humanity, faith, and courage. I am deeply honored to have the chance to tell his inspiring story." The famous actress' talent was recognized in a statement released by Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley in which they affirmed that "She has a real ability to illustrate the strength in human spirit that will be essential in telling Louis' story of survival and great heroism."
The shift in the plot of "Unbroken" can be clearly seen the instant the Olympic spirit of the 1940 games is overshadowed by WWII. Zamperini, who met Adolph Hitler just four years earlier and who was referred to as "the boy with the fast finish" by the fascist leader, had now put aside his running shoes to enlist in the army as a bombardier. During the war, the once troublesome youth cheated death on numerous occasions before falling into the sadistic and ruthless hands of Japanese fighters. On one of his missions in his B-24 plane, nine Japanese planes pursued him. The damage suffered by the plane and Zamperini's rise above death are examples of real miracles. With numerous bullet holes in his plane, Zamperini lived yet another day by defying the odds and with spirit unscathed.
Zamperini's life-changing experience came in 1943 when he was performing a search and rescue mission. The Army Air Forces bomber he was on crashed into the Pacific Ocean, leaving him and two other survivors on the brink of death. Surrounded by sharks and slowly wasting away due to starvation, all three men thought their end had come. The ordeal lasted forty-seven days, and then another dramatic shift of events occurred when Zamperini was captured by the Japanese. The vastness and haunting presence of the Pacific was one challenge that they barely had a chance to fathom before the unknown reinstated itself. With the death of one of the men prior to being captured, the small fraying wire of hope was at its limit.
The capture proved to be another test of strength, determination to survive, and heroism. Zamperini spent two years in the hands of the Japanese, and during this time he was beaten, humiliated, and subjected to medical experiments and other degrading treatment that could easily break the human spirit. However, Zamperini remained defiant to the end. At home he was declared dead, but little did the Army Air Forces know that the former Olympian was alive despite the constant beating he suffered at the hands of the infamous "The Bird."
Humor and faith are also strongly displayed. Zamperini's desire to forgive those who mistreated him during his two-year captivity is another example of how a broken human spirit can rise above the inner challenges and outer experiences to embrace a peaceful solution. His faith in God, which is instrumental for taking such a stand and fighting his own demon, shifts the plot to one of hope, redemption, and empowerment in hopelessness.
Zamperini may have the chance to see his life story become another Hollywood film. With more than nine decades of life under his belt, the former athlete and bombardier will have the opportunity to let the world know how light can shine through darkness. The film is still in the development stages, but from its truthful depiction of a real story, it certainly cannot be compared to some fictional war stories where the plot and characters are not properly developed.