We’re closer to awards season than not, and even though it’s still early in July, savvy filmmakers and studios are going to ramp up PR campaigns sooner than later – all the better to get the jump on their competition. Case in point: Unbroken, Angelina Jolie’s latest directorial effort three years following her debut, the controversy-ridden In the Land of Blood and Honey. Though still tallying Maleficent dividends, Jolie’s mind is nonetheless turning toward promotion for her take on human struggles in World War II, as seen above in Unbroken‘s first official trailer.
Her subject is Louie Zamperini, Olympic athlete, captain in the United States Air Forces, and a former prisoner of war, held for nearly two and a half years in Tokyo’s Sugamo Prison. If you watched March’s Winter Olympics, then you probably caught the teaser-cum-featurette that aired during the telecasts; that clip is more journalistic than promotional, though, complete with a Tom Brokaw voiceover articulating the CliffNotes version of Zamperini’s story.
Jolie’s film will, in theory, go into more detail than that, of course; she’s using Laura Hillenbrand’s novel, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, as the basis for the movie, and she also had Zamperini himself (who, sadly, passed away just last week at 97) participating in production in a consulting role. At the very least, nobody can say Jolie didn’t do her homework leading up to production. Whether or not that preparation is reflected in the finished film is another matter entirely.
Zamperini cuts an inspiring figure; the son of Italian immigrants, born in 1917, Zamperini grew up poor in Olean, New York, went on to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin (where he drew the eye of none other than Adolf Hilter), and enlisted in WWII, flying bombers out in the Pacific. In April 1943, he and his crew crashed off Oahu, stayed adrift in the ocean for 47 days, and wound up being captured by the Japanese navy and summarily abused in prison until conflict ended in August of 1945.
That’s quite a lot of material to fit into the confines of a single movie. The trailer covers the gamut, from Zamperini’s roughshod childhood, to his Olympic glory, to his imprisonment, which seems to comprise the film’s bulk. There’s melodrama aplenty here, and even more Jack O’Connell, portraying Zamperini; there’s decidedly less of his costars, Garret Hedlund and Jai Courtney (respectively playing Louie’s comrades, John Fitzgerald and Hugh “Cup” Cuppernell).
More importantly, the trailer boasts an appropriate sense of scale. This is an intimate tale set within a much greater overarching narrative. Seems like Jolie, and screenwriting partners Joel and Ethan Coen, have nailed that necessary element. We’ll see how well they capture the rest of Zamperini’s ordeal this Christmas.
Unbroken hits theaters December 25th, 2014.