For Angelina Jolie's second directorial project, Unbroken, she's headed out into the Pacific to recreate the remarkable wartime exploits of downed US airman Louis Zamperini. It's a bold and potentially brilliant undertaking: an uplifting, against-all-the-odds tale of courage, disaster, endurance and survival. If that doesn't win your attention, it will also have sharks. Lots and lots of sharks.
Happily, none of the toothy critters cameo in these first-look pics of Jolie and her cast and crew in action. Eschewing the old Hollywood maxim about never shooting at sea, and replacing water tanks with a floating rig, Team Unbroken has been hard at work on location in Australia's Moreton Bay this month. In the rafts are Jack O’Connell as Zamperini and Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock as fellow flyers Russel Allen 'Phil' Phillips and Francis 'Mac' McNamara. If they look gaunt, that's because they are: their director insisted upon a crash diet that left them physically resembling the starving aircrew as they drifted across the Pacific.
Gleeson is probably the most seasoned of the cast but Harry Brown’s O’Connell is the star of the show as Zamperini, an LA high school athlete who raced in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. During World War II, his Air Force plane crashed in the Pacific, leaving him without food and water for 28 days, enduring shark attacks, strafings and hunger. He finally washed ashore on a Japanese island behind enemy lines, where he was held as a prisoner of war for two years and tortured by his captors.
With a script that's been worked on by Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson and the Coen brothers at different points, and Roger Deakins behind the camera, it's bound to look and sound amazing. Jolie's dedication to the story should ensure all these elements combine into something both rollicking and Oscary when it's released on January 16, 2015.