Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, which is, if not the best, one of my favorite books. The unbelievable and seemingly impossible story of Olympic runner and WWII veteran, Louis Zamperini, who survived for 47 days on a raft in the middle of the ocean with little provisions and then became a Japanese POW is told in Unbroken. Unbroken, of which was released in November of 2010 by Laura Hillenbrand of Seabiscuit fame (who lives about an hour from me), seemed like the perfect story to make into a movie if done right. Not two months later in January 2011 did Universal Studios start negotiating for the book’s movie rights. In mid 2011, Francis Lawrence, director of the upcoming The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, was rumored as a possible director for the film. But not until late 2012 it became rumored that Angelina Jolie, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, would direct this WWII epic. Angelina Jolie’s only other directorial credit was her puzzling actor-to-director transition with her Balkan foreign film, In The Land Of Blood And Honey, which garnered mixed reviews. It wasn’t until only a little while ago that Jolie was officially picked to direct the film. Both Water For Elephants screenwriter, Richard LaGravenese and the penner of the Oscar nominated Les Miserables, William Nicholson, both took a crack at adapting Unbroken, but none really made an impression.
It wasn’t until a few days ago that a shocking move was made. The Coen Brothers were hired to write the script! Let’s hope Jolie’s next film isn’t Raising Arizona and Children From Many Other Places, O Father, Where Art Voight, and The Big Lebowski: Tomb Raider. Something seems strange about Lou Zamperini’s story in the hands of the Fargo-ers’s and the direction coming from one half of Brangelina. I don’t say strange in a bad way, I say strange because it is such random people to collaborate on this movie in particular. But that isn’t to say the talent isn’t well… talented. Joel and Ethan Coen are obviously suited to write a script of this caliber with their quirk, wit, creative and dark spins on stories, along with four Academy Awards (2 of which are for writing) under their belt. Although Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut had a mixed audience, her film did have some praise and earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Even through all of the Hollywood charity fluff, Angelina has showed her concern through her charities and UN position for striving to help those in need around the world has given Angelina some more flare and color. This could make the direction even better.
As strange as this Jolie/Coens helmed project could be, if this movie is true to the book, it could be one of the best movies of its year and will definitely secure a spot in that year’s Academy Award race. I hope for the best, not just for the Coens and Jolie, but I hope that Louis Zamperini’s tale is told well, I hope its raw power, realistic images, and savagery will help audiences remember the dark times of WWII, and I also hope it shows that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and that it’s not in the spirit of the American to give up.
The Coen-written romp, Gambit, will start its limited release this March, and their film, Inside Llewyn Davis, still awaits a release date. Angelina Jolie has been off the radar for quite some time with her last film being in 2011 (that film was also animated), but Maleficent will hit theaters next summer.