It probably will be hard to break Unbroken’s record for development time in getting to the screen. Universal had optioned World War II hero Louis Zamperini’s own story  in 1957 as a vehicle for Tony Curtis, who was going to star but chose to do Spartacus instead. The project languished for decades until Laura Hillenbrand’s eight-years-in-the-making best-selling book made Zamperini a hot film property again. Angelina Jolie took quick interest in the story, got to know Zamperini and made the movie as her second directorial effort.

angelina jolie louis zamperiniJolie shows an epic command of the screen, whether shooting on water with sharks, crashing B-24s, dealing with the harsh brutality of Japanese prison camps or re-creating the 1936 Olympic Games. All of this was a part of Zamperini’s remarkable story, and Jolie not only has captured the scope of it all — with the key help of 11-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins — but most important, the inspiring tale of survival and his unbroken spirit in the face of unspeakable inhumanity.

The film stars Jack O’Connell in a bravura turn as Zamperini (who died in July), Japanese rock star Miyavi as the man who tortured him in those camps, Garrett Hedlund, Domhall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock. Screenplay is by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson. It was produced by Jolie, Matt Baer, Erwin Stoff and Clayton Townsend.

Unbroken opens Christmas Day. Check out my video review above and tell us what you think.