In the opening shot of Unbroken, Roger Deakins camera pans across a beautiful open sky, finally landing itself into one of the approaching warplanes. In the tight space of the plane, where every incoming bullet is a few inches away from every crew member, Louis Zamperini and his crew are carrying out a harrowing mission from the sky. The scene (as with the other plane scenes) is shot perfectly – it is tense, the sound mix is perfect, and the general sense of dread is enhanced by the claustrophobia. In this opening sequence, Angelina Jolie’s reverent interpretation of the story of Louis Zamperini’s life begins, taking us into the too wild to believe true story of Louis Zamperini.
This includes being stranded at sea, POW camps, and Olympic dreams. Those who read the book know what to expect. As for the rest of us – it’s best to just sit back and watch as spoiler free as possible. The film documents Zamperini’s incredible life, ending with an emotional punch that reserves itself from the rest of the film. Between there and the beginning, Unbroken (which credits Joel and Ethan Coen as 2 of the film’s 4 screenwriters) bounces between multiple parts of Zamperini’s life, as though we are skipping from chapter 2 to chapter 7 to chapter 3 – and it mostly works. The timeline comes to a halt and the majority of the last half is spent in the Japanese POW Camp where Zamperini faces off against notorious Camp general, The Bird (played with a bratty menace here by Takamasa Ishihara).