Based on the book of the same name by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken is the true story of American Olympian Louis Zamperini struggle to survive as a Japanese prisoner of war and his steadfast refusal to use his notoriety to satisfy the demands of his enemies. Director Angelina Jolie does a fine job of crafting an engrossing story, and while the film is certainly a tribute to the amazing Louis Zamperini, it’s also a testament to the human spirit and its ability to withstand that designed to tear it down.
As the film opens, Japanese forces attack a US bomber flying a mission towards enemy land. Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) is a second lieutenant in the US Army Air Corps and bombardier on this flight. Flashbacks to his childhood are interspersed with action. From a respectable, middle-class Italian family, Louis has a taste for a bit of mischief and needs a little disciple. One day, his older brother Pete (Alex Russell) notices how fast he runs and trains him to be a runner. Louis matures into the fastest high school athlete in the country, earning the nickname “The Torrance Tornado.” At just 19, Louis earned a place at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, with the hope that he would be a medal favorite in the next Summer games to be held in Tokyo, Japan.
Back in the present, Zamperini and most of his crew survive that battle, but are soon sent on another mission with dire results. After both plane’s left engines fail, they crash into the ocean. He and two others find themselves stranded on a raft with minimal food and water. One of the men dies on the thirty-third day, but Louis and Phil Phillips (Domhnall Gleeson), the pilot, are captured by the Japanese navy on the forty-seventh day. Zamperini is sent to a prison camp under the command of the sadistic Mutsuhiro Watanabe (played by Japanese pop star Miyavi), who many have nicknamed “The Bird.” Zamperini is the target of several intense beatings. On one occasion, Bird forces Louis’s fellow-prisoners to take part in his punishment, insisting that they line up to punch him in the face. On another, Louis is forced to stand for hours, a huge plank of wood on his shoulders. Drop it and he will be shot. No matter the punishment, Louis refuses to give in.
With cinematography by Roger Deakins, Unbroken is dreary and dark, yet elegantly filmed. The script, apparently written by committee—Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson—certainly highlights the violence of Zamperini’s experience and Angelina Jolie approaches her subject with a mixture of intensity and distance. Nonetheless, this is effective, due in large part to the strong presence of Jack O’Connell as Louis, who delivers a committed, intense and physical performance. While character development isn’t as expansive as some might like, it’s hard not to become deeply engrossed in Louis’ inspirational story.
Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Universal has provided a stunning 1080p transfer. Roger Deakins stunning cinematography is preserved perfectly, showing rich colors and fine details, with no digital anomalies. The clarity is absolutely amazing throughout and textures are stunning. I did notice some very light banding around bright light sources on occasion, but it’s not a major issue.
Unfortunately, I was unable to take advantage of the Dolby Atmos soundtrack, having neither the right processor needed to perform the proper decoding, nor the four extra ceiling speakers recommended to present the overhead channels correctly. Instead, I used the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track. It did a great job reproducing the tight, low-end effects and the awesome bass of the machine gun fire and explosives. Overall, the soundtrack is fully immersive and aurally impressive. Dialogue is clear and precise throughout.
English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Deleted Scenes (HD) Dad Comes Home (0:50), Light and Darkness (2:23), Victory Kiss (0:55), Cecy (1:24), Bird Plays “Sakura Sakura” on Shamisen (2:09), Bird Plays “Cherry Blossom Song” on Shamisen (0:59), Bird Hits Fitzgerald (4:08), Louie Taken to Barracks After Beating (0:58), Family Photo (0:35), and What a Deal (1:33).
- Inside Unbroken (HD) A three-part featurette. Fifty Years in the Making (5:33) a look at the story’s long journey to the screen, Hillenbrand’s work on her novel, Jolie’s attachment to the project, and Louis Zamperini’s involvement in the project and his hope for the story. The Fight of a Storyteller Director Angelina Jolie (11:45) features a look at practical and digital effects, crafting the aerial footage, shooting the sequences on the ocean, filming the POW sequences, creating the film’s emotional climax, and folding the entire Zamperini story into a single film. Finally, The Hardiest Generation (10:13) briefly looks at the importance of getting the story right and the realities and dangers of World War II aviators, focusing largely on supporting characters.
- The Real Louis Zamperini (HD, 29:47) A detailed look back at Zamperini’s life, including his early years, relationship with his family, his running career and fame, the Olympic games, his career as a bombardier, life on the raft following the plane crash, transfer to “Execution Island,” refusal to partake in propaganda, his relationship with “The Bird,” his return home, his celebrity, emotional turmoil, his spiritual awakening, forgiving his captors, work with troubled youth, his charitable activities, and his death.
- Cast and Crew Concert Featuring Miyavi (HD, 7:42) Angelina Jolie introduces a performance by Japanese pop star Miyavi.
- Prison Camp Theater: Cinderella (HD, 6:29) A longer version of the performance seen in the film. With bookend interviews.
- Louis’ Path to Forgiveness (HD, 6:43) A closer look at Zamperini’s spiritual salvation, the details of which mostly repeat from the supplement entitled The Real Louis Zamperini.
- DVD of the film.
- Digital Copy.
- UV Digital Copy.