Award-winning actress Angelina Jolie spoke to critics about the new World War II epic she directed featuring the true story of deeply Christian POW Louis Zamperini, saying his faith was portrayed in the film as “universal” so it would “reach everyone.” The movie, titled Unbroken, was criticized in early reviews for its “disappointing” lack of detail regarding Zamperini’s conversion to Christianity and subsequent forgiveness of his WWII captors. But Jolie defended her decision to direct the character as she did, saying Zamperini himself “said to make faith and forgiveness universal.”
“He said this is about reaching everyone, this should speak to everyone, and we were very clear on his parents’ faith, they being Catholic. … We’re very clear on him praying,” she said. “If you were looking for symbolism and miracles in the film, you will see them.”
The movie tells the amazing story of how Zamperini, an Olympic athlete, survived a plane crash, weeks lost at sea and more than two years in a Japanese prison camp. The best-selling book on his life by Lauren Hillenbrand also says Zamperini became a Christian in 1949 at a Billy Graham crusade and as a result was able to extend mercy and get past his harrowing war experience. The film mentions neither of these details, however. Zamperini is shown praying during his 47 days at sea, and a slide near the end of the movie reads, “After years of severe post-traumatic stress, Louie made good on his promise to serve God, a decision he credited with saving his life … Motivated by his faith, Louie came to see that the way forward was not revenge, but forgiveness.”
Not everyone thinks the film lacks in Christian allegory. Christian media critic Ted Baehr said in a MovieGuide.com review, “Whether it be the priest preaching to love your enemy, Louie’s mother praying fervently for her son, a Christian soldier praying, or Louie making his promise to God, Christian faith is present in Unbroken from beginning to end.”
Zamperini’s daughter, Cynthia Garris, said the film was “absolutely sanctioned” by her father, adding that “if they wanted to know more about how he got through it, how he survived it, they could investigate it. … He never wanted to preach at them but live the example.” Garris even suggested that Jolie, a self-professed agnostic, “was supposed to find Louie and make this movie to find her way to a life that would encompass the Almighty.”
The film opens for wide release on Christmas Day and featured Jack O’Connell as Zamperini. Watch the trailer below.