Unbroken (film)

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The back of a skinny young man, holds a huge metallic beam above his head.  The film's slogan is above him, and the film's title and release above the beam. The billing is at the two sides of the poster.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Angelina Jolie
Produced by
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Matthew Baer
  • Erwin Stoff
  • Clayton Townsend
Screenplay by Joel Coen
Ethan Coen

Richard LaGravenese
William Nicholson
Based on Unbroken
by Laura Hillenbrand
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Edited by Tim Squyres
William Goldenberg
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • November 17, 2014 (2014-11-17) (Sydney premiere)
  • December 25, 2014 (2014-12-25) (United States)
Running time
137 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $65 million[2]
Box office $163 million[3]

Unbroken is a 2014 American war film produced and directed by Angelina Jolie, written by the Coen brothers, Richard LaGravenese, and William Nicholson, based on the 2010 non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. The film revolves around the life of USA Olympian and army officer Louis "Louie" Zamperini. Zamperini survived in a raft for 47 days after his bomber crash landed in the ocean during World War II, then was sent to a series of prisoner of war camps.

The film had its world premiere in Sydney on November 17, 2014, and received a wide release in the United States on December 25, 2014. The film grossed $116 million in North America, with a worldwide total of over $163 million.


The film opens with Louis "Louie" Zamperini flying as a bombardier of a United States Army Air Forces B-24 Liberator bomber, during an April 1943 bombing mission against the Japanese-held island of Nauru. The plane is badly damaged in combat, with a number of the crew injured. The pilot, Phil, manages to bring it to a stop at the end of the runway thanks to an exploded tire.

The story flashes back to Louie's childhood as a young Italian-American boy in Torrance, California. Louie is a troublemaker, who steals, drinks liquor and smokes, to the disappointment of his parents. He is often picked on by other kids for being of Italian ethnicity. One day, Louie is caught looking up women's dresses from under the bleachers during a track meet. His brother Peter sees how fast Louie runs away and decides to train him to be a runner. As he grows, Louie becomes more disciplined and also becomes an accomplished distance runner, earning him the nickname "The Torrance Tornado". He qualifies for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Louie comes in 8th and sets a record for speed in the final lap in the 5,000 meters 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. During the mission, of the plane's two left engines, one fails, while the crew bungles the remaining engine, and the plane crashes in the ocean. Louie, Mac and Phil survive and live on two inflatable rafts. After three days, a search plane flies over but they are unable to get its attention. They weather a storm and fend off a shark attack while subsisting on rations, rainwater, birds and fish. On the 27th day, they get the attention of a Japanese plane, which strafes and damages the rafts but misses them. Mac dies 6 days later.

On the 47th day, Japanese sailors capture Louie and Phil. Now prisoners of war, Louie and Phil are taken to Kwajalein Atoll where they are kept in a dungeon. Louie sees the names of nine U.S. Marines, that were held captive on the island, scratched into the wall. Louie later finds out that they were beheaded. One day, the Japanese ask Louie and Phil to tell them about E-class bombers and the Norden bombsight. Louie states they flew D-class, and draws a rendition of a Philco radio. On another, they are dragged out to disrobe and kneel on planks. Thinking this is to be their execution, the two are shocked that they are crudely washed so as to ship them to mainland Japan. Upon arrival, the two are separated and sent to different POW camps.

Louie's camp, Ōmori, in Tokyo, is headed by a Japanese corporal, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, who treats him very cruelly, in part because of Louie's status as a former Olympian and an American officer. Watanabe is especially tough on Louie, beating him often. Louie is given an escape from Watanabe's torture when two Japanese newsmen give him the opportunity to broadcast a message home saying that he is alive after they learn the US government classified him as KIA. When he refuses to broadcast a second message with anti-American propaganda, he is sent back to camp where Watanabe has each of the other prisoners punch him to teach him respect.

After two years, Watanabe gets a promotion and leaves the camp. The camp is damaged when Tokyo is bombed by American forces. Louie and the other internees are forced to move to Naoetsu prison camp, where Louie discovers, to his horror, that Watanabe is in charge. The prisoners are now put to work loading coal barges. Louie, exhausted, pauses during work, and Watanabe tells him to lift a giant piece of wood and orders a guard to shoot Louie if he drops it. Louie successfully lifts and holds up the wood despite being thoroughly worn out, and enrages Watanabe by staring him straight in the eyes; Watanabe proceeds to beat him severely.

At the end of the war, Louie and the other prisoners in the camp are liberated when the Americans occupy Japan. In the meantime, Louie tried to find Watanabe in his quarters but realizes he had fled but Louie sits down and stares at a picture of Watanabe as a child standing with his father. Back home in America, Louie kisses the ground and hugs his family.

At the end of the film, there is a slideshow showing what happened after the war. Louis was married and had two children. Phil survived and eventually married his sweetheart. Mutsuhiro " The Bird" Watanabe went into hiding for several years and successfully evaded prosecution in spite of being listed in the top 40 most-wanted Japanese war criminals by General Douglas MacArthur. Louie lived out his promise to devote his life to God; eventually believing in Jesus Christ and forgave his war-time captors, meeting with many of them. Watanabe, however, refused to meet with Louie.

In January 1998, Louie had an opportunity to revisit 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 site for his leg of the relay was not far from one of the POW camps where he was held during the war. The closing titles reveal that Louie Zamperini died on July 2, 2014, at age 97.




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.[4] 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.[5]

On September 30, 2013, Jolie was confirmed to direct the film in Australia.[6] Jolie was paid a $1 million salary for directing the film.[7] Walden Media was originally set as Universal's co-financer,[8] but withdrew from the project prior to filming and were subsequently replaced by Legendary Pictures.[2] The filming was based in New South Wales and Queensland, with scenes also shot in Fox Studios Australia and Village Roadshow Studios.


Principal photography began on October 16, 2013 in Queensland, Australia and ended on February 4, 2014,[9] with post-production also being done in Australia.[10]

Some of the scenes were shot at sea in Moreton Bay on October 16, 2013.[11] On December 14, four days of filming were completed in Werris Creek, New South Wales.[12] Other scenes were shot at Cockatoo Island (New South Wales).[13]


The official film soundtrack was released on December 15, 2014, through Parlophone and Atlantic Records. The film score was composed by Alexandre Desplat.[14] 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.[15][16]


Box office

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.[17][18] 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).[19] 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).[20] and fourth biggest among World War II theme movies.[21] 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.[21]

Critical response

Miyavi, Angelina Jolie, Jack O'Connell, Matthew Baer at Unbroken World Premiere in Sydney

The film received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 51% based on 194 reviews; with an average rating of 6/10. The site's 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."[22] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 59 out of 100 based on 48 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[23] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.[21]

The SAG Nominating Committee gave it a standing ovation after a screening.[24]

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 criticised 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.[25] 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.[26]


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 describes "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.[27][28] A petition on Change.org calling for a ban attracted more than 10,000 signatures.[29] 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.[30] Another petition on Change.org calling for a release of the film in Japan, this time written in Japanese, gathered more than 1,200 signatures.[29] 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.[31]

The film received some criticism for omitting Zamperini's fight against alcoholism and PTSD, as well as his Billy Graham-inspired religious conversion.[32]


List of awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result Ref
Academy Awards February 22, 2015 Best Cinematography Roger Deakins Nominated [33]
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 [34]
Art Directors Guild Awards January 31, 2015 Excellence in Production Design for a Period Film Jon Hutman Nominated [35]
ASC Award February 15, 2015 Theatrical Motion Picture Roger Deakins Nominated [36]
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 [37]
Critics' Choice Movie Award January 15, 2015 Best Picture Nominated [38]
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 [39]
Hollywood Film Awards November 14, 2014 New Hollywood Award Jack O'Connell Won [40]
Houston Film Critics Society Awards January 12, 2015 Best Cinematography Roger Deakins Nominated [41][42]
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 [43]
MPSE Golden Reel Awards February 15, 2015 Feature English Language - Dialogue/ADR Becky Sullivan, Andrew DeCristofaro, Laura Atkinson, Glynna Grimala, Lauren Hadaway Won [44]
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 [45]
Breakthrough Performance Jack O'Connell (also for Starred Up) Won
Saturn Awards June 25, 2015 Best Action or Adventure Film Unbroken Won [46]
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 [47]
Best Cinematography Roger Deakins Nominated
Visual Effects Society Awards February 4, 2015 Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal/Live Action Feature Motion Picture Unbroken Nominated [48]

Home media

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).[49]

See also

  • 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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  13. ^ Angelina Jolie directs Unbroken in the Australian heat | Daily Mail Online
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  17. ^ Scott Mendelson (December 26, 2014). "Christmas Box Office: 'Unbroken,' 'Into The Woods' Score Above, 'Selma,' 'American Sniper' Score Below". Forbes. Retrieved December 27, 2014. 
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  32. ^ Zamperini film by Angelina Jolie will not include his faith in Christ | God Reports
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  34. ^ "AFI Tope Ten Films". Reuters. December 8, 2014. Retrieved December 8, 2014. 
  35. ^ "'Birdman', 'Foxcatcher' Among Art Directors Guild Nominees". Deadline.com. January 5, 2015. Retrieved January 5, 2015. 
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  39. ^ The Jameson Empire Awards 2015
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  48. ^ "Visual Effects Society Awards Nominations Announced". Deadline.com. January 13, 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  49. ^ Unbroken – Blu-Ray

External links

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