A rousing tale of human resilience, this biopic about Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) is directed by Angelina Jolie.
Zamperini’s story is truly remarkable. A delinquent teen from an Italian-American family in California, he turned his life around to become a champion athlete, representing the US at the 1938 Berlin Olympics. Then, as a US air force flier during World War Two, he endured ordeals that would have crushed most other people.
Opening with a nerve-jangling bombing mission before flashing back to Zamperini’s scrappy childhood and athletic triumphs, Jolie’s movie goes on to show how he first survives a plane crash in the Pacific and then somehow gets through 47 days in a raft in shark-infested waters while striving to boost the morale of his two fellow survivors (played by Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Whitrock) with lip-smacking recollections of his mother’s cooking.
When rescue finally comes, he ends up in a series of brutal Japanese prisoner-of-war camps where a sadistic guard (played with sly menace by Japanese pop star Miyavi) singles him out for particularly savage treatment.
Jolie’s solid film hardly probes deeply into its hero’s psyche, not does it depict his post-war traumas. What she does very well, however, is convey Zamperini’s wartime experiences with gut-wrenching immediacy. She’s aided by Roger Deakins’ striking, Oscar-nominated cinematography and a compelling lead performance by O’Connell.