Unbroken is a 2014 American war film produced and directed by Angelina Jolie and written by the Coen brothers, Richard LaGravenese, and William Nicholson. It is based on the 2010 non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. The film stars Jack O'Connell as USA Olympian and army officer Louis "Louie" Zamperini, who survived in a raft for 47 days after his bomber crash-landed in the ocean during the Second World War, before being captured by the Japanese and being sent to a series of prisoner of war camps.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Angelina Jolie|
by Laura Hillenbrand
|Music by||Alexandre Desplat|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$163.4 million|
The film had its world premiere in Sydney on November 17, 2014, followed by a London premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square on November 26, 2014. The film was released in the United States on December 25, 2014. It received mixed reviews from critics, though praised O'Connell's performance and Jolie's direction and was a moderate financial success, grossing $163 million worldwide. The film was followed by a sequel, Unbroken: Path to Redemption, in 2018.
During an April 1943 bombing mission against the Japanese-held island of Nauru, Louis "Louie" Zamperini is flying as a bombardier of a United States Army Air Forces B-24 Liberator bomber when his plane is damaged in combat and a number of the crew injured. The pilot brings the aircraft to a stop at the end of the runway despite suffering an exploded tire.
As a young Italian-American boy in Torrance, Louie misbehaves by stealing, drinking liquor and smoking. He is often picked on by others due to his Italian ethnicity. His brother Peter sees how fast Louie can run and decides to train him to be a runner. Louie begins to learn discipline and becomes a distance runner, earning the nickname "The Torrance Tornado". Louie finishes 8th in the 1936 Summer Olympics and sets a record in the final lap for the 5,000-meter race.
Returning to 1943, Louie, the surviving crew and several replacements are sent on a search-and-rescue mission with a plane previously used for spare parts. One engine fails and the aircraft ultimately crashes in the ocean. Louie survives alongside two other crew members, Phil and Mac, floating on two inflatable rafts.
On the 27th day adrift they attract the attention of a Japanese plane, which strafes and damages the rafts but misses them. Mac dies six days later. On the 47th day Japanese sailors capture Louie and Phil. Now prisoners of war, Louie and Phil are imprisoned on Kwajalein Atoll. The two American airmen are interrogated for information about newer bombers and the Norden bombsight. Louie states that they flew older models and draws a rendition of a Philco radio. They are dragged out to disrobe and kneel on planks. Instead of being executed, they are crudely washed and shipped to Japan. Upon arrival, the two are separated and sent to different POW camps.
Louie's camp, Ōmori, in Tokyo, is headed by Japanese corporal Mutsuhiro Watanabe who is especially tough on Louie, beating him often. Louie is given an opportunity to broadcast a message home saying he is alive after learning the US government classified him as KIA. When refusing to broadcast another message laden with anti-American propaganda, he is sent back to camp where Watanabe has each prisoner punch him.
After two years Watanabe is promoted and leaves the camp. The camp is damaged when Tokyo is bombed, so Louie and the others are forced to move to Naoetsu prison camp. Here Louie discovers that Watanabe is again in command and the prisoners are put to work loading coal barges. Louie pauses during work and is punished by Watanabe making him lift a large beam, ordering a guard to shoot Louie if he drops it. Louie successfully lifts and holds it up, despite his exhaustion. This enrages Watanabe as Louie stares him straight in the eye, provoking him to beat Louie severely.
At the end of the war, Louie and the other prisoners in the camp are liberated when the Americans occupy Japan. Louie tried to find Watanabe in his quarters but realizes he has already fled. Louie sits down and stares at a picture of Watanabe as a child alongside his father. He is returned home to America, where Louie kisses the ground on arriving home to his family.
At the end of the film, there is a slideshow of events that followed the war. The real Louis married and had two children. Phil too survived and married. Mutsuhiro "The Bird" Watanabe went into hiding and evaded prosecution despite being placed on the top 40 most wanted Japanese war criminals list by General Douglas MacArthur. Louie lived out his promise to convert to Christianity, devote his life to God and forgive his war-time captors, meeting with many of them. Watanabe, however, refused to meet with Louie.
Louie had an opportunity to relive his time as an Olympian when he ran a leg of the Olympic Torch relay for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. He was four days short of his 81st birthday. The stretch he ran was not far from one of the POW camps where he was held. The closing titles reveal Louie Zamperini died on July 2, 2014, at age 97.
- Jack O'Connell as Capt. Louis "Louie" Zamperini
- C.J. Valleroy as young Louis Zamperini
- Domhnall Gleeson as Lt. Russell "Phil" Phillips
- Garrett Hedlund as Lt. Cmdr. John Fitzgerald (captain of submarine USS Grenadier)
- Miyavi as Sgt. Mutsuhiro "The Bird" Watanabe
- Finn Wittrock as T-3 S/Sgt. Francis "Mac" McNamara
- Jai Courtney as Lt. Charlton Hugh "Cup" Cupernell
- Luke Treadaway as Miller
- Spencer Lofranco as Harry Brooks
- Travis Jeffery as Jimmy
- Jordan Patrick Smith as Cliff
- John Magaro as Frank A. Tinker
- Alex Russell as Pete Zamperini
- John D'Leo as Young Pete
- Vincenzo Amato as Anthony
- Louis McIntosh as Harris
- Ross Anderson as Blackie
- Maddalena Ischiale as Louise Zamperini
- Savannah Lamble as Sylvia Zamperini
- Sophie Dalah as Virginia Zamperini
Universal Pictures purchased the rights to the book in January 2011, having already acquired the film rights to Zamperini's life story towards the end of the 1950s. Early drafts for the film were written by William Nicholson and Richard LaGravenese while Francis Lawrence was scheduled to direct. Joel and Ethan Coen were then tapped to rewrite the script after Jolie was named director.
On September 30, 2013, Jolie was confirmed to direct the film in Australia. Jolie was paid a $1 million salary for directing the film. Walden Media was originally set as Universal's co-financier, but withdrew from the project prior to filming and were subsequently replaced by Legendary Pictures. The filming was based in New South Wales and Queensland, with scenes also shot in Fox Studios Australia and Village Roadshow Studios.
Some of the scenes were shot at sea in Moreton Bay on October 16, 2013. On December 14, four days of filming were completed in Werris Creek, New South Wales. Other scenes were shot at Cockatoo Island (New South Wales).
The official film soundtrack was released on December 15, 2014, through Parlophone and Atlantic Records. The film score was composed by Alexandre Desplat. The album also features "Miracles", a song written and recorded by British alternative rock band Coldplay, which was released digitally as a single on December 15.
Unbroken grossed $115.6 million in the U.S. and Canada and $47.6 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $163 million, against a budget of $65 million.
The film opened in North America on December 25, 2014, across 3,131 theaters and grossed $15.6 million on its opening day (including Christmas Eve previews) which is the third-biggest Christmas Day debut ever, behind Les Misérables ($18 million), and Sherlock Holmes ($24 million) and the fifth-biggest Christmas Day gross ever. The film was among one of the four widely released films on December 25, 2014, the other three being Walt Disney's Into the Woods (2,478 theaters), Paramount Pictures' The Gambler (2,478 theaters) and TWC's Big Eyes (1,307 theaters). It earned $31,748,000 in its traditional three-day opening weekend (including its revenue from Christmas Day it earned $47.3 million) debuting at #2 at the box office behind The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies setting a record for the third-biggest Christmas debut behind Sherlock Holmes ($62 million) and Marley & Me ($36 million). and fourth biggest among World War II theme movies. It was the eighth film that earned $25 million plus in its debut weekend for Universal Pictures and the fifth $30 million plus debut for an "original" movie following Lone Survivor, Ride Along, Neighbors and Lucy.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 50% based on 220 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Unbroken is undoubtedly well-intentioned, but it hits a few too many of the expected prestige-pic beats to register as strongly as it should." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 59 out of 100 based on 48 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale. The audience was 52 percent female and 71 percent over the age of 25.
The SAG Nominating Committee gave it a standing ovation after a screening.
The score received a mixed critical reaction. Callum Hofler of Entertainment Junkie stated, "At its finest, Unbroken is perhaps Desplat's strongest and most resonant emotional work since The Tree of Life or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, both from 2011. It comes off as bold, ambitious, yet intimate and sentimental all the same. It can be an elegant and harmonious exploration of human determination, drive and spirit." He also criticized numerous components, claiming that, "In most cases though, the primary issue with the album is its lack of energy and vitality. There is many a time where the music seems to just sit in place, lacking major progression in character, motive or mindset." He awarded the score a final rating of 6 out of 10. Jorn Tillnes of Soundtrack Geek acclaimed the album, stating, "This score is pretty great. It's been a really good year for Desplat. Godzilla and The Monuments Men at the top of the pile, but this is not far behind." He summarized with, "It is a turning point though for those who think Desplat is about boring bass rhythms and motifs. This might even get the haters to respect him as a composer." He awarded the score an 87.8 out of 100.
Prior to the film's release, some Japanese nationalists asked for the film and the director to be banned from their country, largely because of a part in Hillenbrand's book, which was not depicted in the film, where she writes "POWs were beaten, burned, stabbed, or clubbed to death, shot, beheaded, killed during medical experiments, or eaten alive in ritual acts of cannibalism" by the Imperial Japanese Army. A petition on Change.org calling for a ban attracted more than 10,000 signatures. In response, it triggered a Change.org petition by Dutch Indonesian group The Indo Project voicing support for the movie, as they saw it as a reflection of what their family members in the former Dutch East Indies experienced in Japanese camps. Several prominent Dutch Indos (including those who are not descendants of former POWs), such as author Adriaan van Dis, Doe Maar frontman Ernst Jansz, and actress Wieteke van Dort, signed the petition in support of the film. Another petition on Change.org calling for a release of the film in Japan, this time in Japanese, gathered more than 1,200 signatures. The film was eventually released in Japan on February 6, 2016, by independent distributor Bitters End on a much smaller scale than originally intended, while Toho-Towa, the usual distributor of Universal titles, had passed on releasing the film.
|List of awards and nominations|
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipients||Result||References|
|Academy Awards||February 22, 2015||Best Cinematography||Roger Deakins||Nominated|||
|Best Sound Editing||Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro||Nominated|
|Best Sound Mixing||Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee||Nominated|
|American Film Institute||December 8, 2014||Top Ten Films of the Year||Won|||
|Art Directors Guild Awards||January 31, 2015||Excellence in Production Design for a Period Film||Jon Hutman||Nominated|||
|ASC Award||February 15, 2015||Theatrical Motion Picture||Roger Deakins||Nominated|||
|Cinema Audio Society Awards||February 14, 2015||Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Motion Picture – Live Action||David Lee, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Jonathan Allen, Paul Drenning, John Guentner||Nominated|||
|Critics' Choice Movie Award||January 15, 2015||Best Picture||Nominated|||
|Best Director||Angelina Jolie||Nominated|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Joel and Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Roger Deakins||Nominated|
|Empire Awards||March 29, 2015||Best Male Newcomer||Jack O'Connell||Nominated||[failed verification]|
|Hollywood Film Awards||November 14, 2014||New Hollywood Award||Jack O'Connell||Won|||
|Houston Film Critics Society Awards||January 12, 2015||Best Cinematography||Roger Deakins||Nominated|||
|Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards||February 14, 2015||Best Period and/or Character Make-Up in Feature Length Motion Picture||Toni G. and Nik Dorning||Nominated|||
|MPSE Golden Reel Awards||February 15, 2015||Feature English Language - Dialogue/ADR||Becky Sullivan, Andrew DeCristofaro, Laura Atkinson, Glynna Grimala, Lauren Hadaway||Won|||
|Feature English Language - Effects/Foley||Becky Sullivan, Andrew DeCristofaro, Jay Wilkinson, Eric A. Norris, David Raines, Dan O'Connell, John T. Cucci, Karen Triest, Dan Hegeman, Nancy MacLeod, Darren "Sunny" Warkentin||Nominated|
|National Board of Review||December 2, 2014||Top 10 Films||Won|||
|Breakthrough Performance||Jack O'Connell (also for Starred Up)||Won|
|Saturn Awards||June 25, 2015||Best Action or Adventure Film||Unbroken||Won|||
|Best Editing||William Goldenberg, Tim Squyres||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Awards||January 25, 2015||Outstanding Action Performance By Stunt Ensemble Motion Picture||Unbroken||Won|||
|St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association||December 15, 2014||Best Screenplay: Adapted||Joel and Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson||Nominated||[failed verification]|
|Best Cinematography||Roger Deakins||Nominated|
|Visual Effects Society Awards||February 4, 2015||Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal/Live Action Feature Motion Picture||Bill George, Steve Gaub, Erin Dusseault, Dave Morley, Brian Cox||Nominated|||
Unbroken was released on March 24, 2015 in the United States in two formats: a one-disc standard DVD and a Blu-ray Combo pack (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy).
A faith-based film also based on Hillenbrand's book, titled Unbroken: Path to Redemption, which depicts later events of Zamperini's life than those depicted in Unbroken, was released by Pure Flix Entertainment on September 14, 2018. It was directed by Harold Cronk with the script written by Richard Friedenberg and Ken Hixon. Aside from producer Matthew Baer and actors Vincenzo Amato and Maddalena Ischiale, who reprised the roles of Anthony and Louise Zamperini, none of the original cast or crew was involved in the new film.
- The Great Raid, a 2005 war film about the raid at Cabanatuan in the Philippines during World War II.
- To End All Wars, a movie set in a Japanese prisoner of war labour camp where the inmates are building the Burma Railway during World War II.
- Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, a 1983 Japanese war film based on the story of a Japanese POW camp during WWII.
- My Way, a 2011 South Korean war film based on the story of a Korean captured by the Americans on D-Day.
- List of World War II films
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