Based on “Seabiscuit” author Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 non-fiction book, the film will tell the true story of Louis Zamperini, a former Olympian who endured unbelievable hardship as a Japanese POW during WWII. He was subjected to medical experiments, slave labor and brutal beatings, and became the target of one sadistic guard in particular, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, whose goal it was to break Zamperini. The athlete endured his harsh punishment right though until the end of the war, but the lingering effects were still felt. He routinely had terrifying nightmares, suffered from alcoholism, and on the verge of losing everything, he found God and forgave his captors, even traveling to Japan to forgive them in person (though Watanabe refused to meet him).
Zamperini’s story is definitely weighty stuff, and it makes sense why Jolie was so adamant about finding the right writers to rewrite earlier drafts by William Nicholson and Richard LaGravenese. This isn’t her first time in heavy territory -- she made her directorial debut with 2011’s little-seen Bosnian War-set “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” which made back a meager $303, 877 in North America against a $13 million budget. With the full weight of a studio behind her, and with American film titans writing, her sophomore feature should sail past that low bar.
And who could have predicted that the Coen Brothers would have ended up being chosen, as the last time they wrote a screenplay they didn’t direct was their late '90s draft for the remake of “Gambit," which will finally hit the big screen later this year, and the still nowhere-to-be-found George Clooney-helmed “Suburbicon.” Hopefully “Unbroken” will see a smoother ride through development than those films, and we’re excited to see what their collaboration will yield. Perhaps the Coens will be able to take some elements from their unmade and probably never happening WWII tale "The White Sea," once mooted to star Mr. Jolie himself, Brad Pitt. And we can only imagine that connection spurred this latest collaboration.
In the meantime, you won’t be able to catch Jolie in front of the camera until next year’s “Maleficent,” and the Coens have their '60s-set “Inside Llewyn Davis” hitting theaters later this year.