Zamperini, the invincible man

Not many people will have heard of Louis Zamperini, let alone the story of his life. Unbroken tells us his story. An American of Italian origin, Zamperini became an Olympic athlete and took part in Hitler’s Games in 1936. Then the Second World War broke out and the athlete enlisted in the army. On one of missions he was rescued from the sea by Japanese soldiers and was taken to a prisoner of war camp. Surprisingly, he survived the war.

Angelina Jolie and Louis Zamperini
Angelina Jolie and Louis Zamperini

This project about the life of Louis Zamperini had been filed as pending at Universal Studios since 1957. Angelina Jolie rescued this inspiring story from oblivion after reading the novel Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, book on which the film is based. Jolie was sure that everyone could learn something from this film about humanity’s strength of spirit, about forgiveness and about survival. She got the Coen brothers to write the script and so the production of this biopic began.

Jack O’Connell, who has burst into the world of Hollywood this last year,  was chosen to portray Louis Zamperini and has surprised critics with his performance as the American athlete. The British actor has managed to mirror in a single character the struggle and men’s will to live even when all the circumstances are against them: war, penal servitude and torture. All the elements blend together nicely to recreate vivaciously the distressing environment of the POW camps.

Unbroken tells the story of a man who never gave up, a man who even when given the chance to live comfortably refused to betray his nation, a man who even after everything he went through knew how to forgive. The film covers Zamperini’s life from when he started running, through his experience at the Olympic Games and his experience of the Second World War, finishing with his release from the camp and the emotional reunion with his family when he finally got home.

Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell) gaces his Japanese captor
Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) gaces his Japanese captor

What is really incredible about this emotional-rollercoaster of a story of the Olympic runner Louis Zamperini’s life is that even after his fierce personal struggle to survive the cruelty of the Japanese he had the strength to fulfill his dream of taking part in the Olympics again – even if he was 81 years old and could only run with the flame – and, while he was it, he reunited with the people who were once his captors and forgive them in person.

Unbroken is an exceptional drama with quality performances from Hollywood newbies that offer a truthful reflection of human nature on both sides during the war. Louis Zamperini lived to see his story brought to life on the big screen and he was happy with the result. Zamperini died this past summer, 97 years of age. This inspiring story has the suficient strength to transmit to the viewer an important life lesson: we can all be exceptional human beings, even when the circumstances aren’t in our favor.

Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell)
Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell)
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