Unbroken (2014)

PG-13 | Drama | 25 December 2014

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HISTORY

The final shot of the film replicates an actual stock photograph of Louie Zamperini, reunited with his family, and the image fades into the real picture. End credits are preceded by other authentic photographs of the film’s characters, superimposed with the following written epilogues: “In 1946, Louie Zamperini met and married his beloved Cynthia Applewhite. They had a daughter, Cissy, and a son, Luke”; “Lt. Russell “Phil” Phillips survived the war and married his sweetheart, Cecy. He and Louie remained friends long after the war”; “Mutsuhiro Watanabe, ‘the Bird,’ remained in hiding for several years as a war criminal until he was granted amnesty the U.S. in its efforts to reconcile with Japan”; “After years of sever post-traumatic stress, Louie made good on his promise to serve God, a decision he credited to saving his life”; “Motivated by his faith, Louie came to see that the way forward was not revenge, but forgiveness”; “He returned to Japan, where he found and made peace with his former captors. Only the Bird refused to meet him”; “Louie finally realized his dream and ran again in the Olympics”; “At age 80”; “In Japan.” The final section of the epilogue is transposed over stock footage of Zamperini running with the Olympic torch. A memorial photograph of the aged war hero notes: “Louie Zamperini, 1917-2014.”
       End credits include the following acknowledgements: “The Major League Baseball trademarks depicted in this motion picture were licensed by Major League Baseball Properties, Inc.; B-24 replica by Digital Design LLC/Arizona Aircraft Replicas LLC; Stock photography courtesy of Getty Images; Stock footage provided by CBS and Draggan Mihailovich; Mutsuhiro Watanabe photo courtesy of National ... More Less

The final shot of the film replicates an actual stock photograph of Louie Zamperini, reunited with his family, and the image fades into the real picture. End credits are preceded by other authentic photographs of the film’s characters, superimposed with the following written epilogues: “In 1946, Louie Zamperini met and married his beloved Cynthia Applewhite. They had a daughter, Cissy, and a son, Luke”; “Lt. Russell “Phil” Phillips survived the war and married his sweetheart, Cecy. He and Louie remained friends long after the war”; “Mutsuhiro Watanabe, ‘the Bird,’ remained in hiding for several years as a war criminal until he was granted amnesty the U.S. in its efforts to reconcile with Japan”; “After years of sever post-traumatic stress, Louie made good on his promise to serve God, a decision he credited to saving his life”; “Motivated by his faith, Louie came to see that the way forward was not revenge, but forgiveness”; “He returned to Japan, where he found and made peace with his former captors. Only the Bird refused to meet him”; “Louie finally realized his dream and ran again in the Olympics”; “At age 80”; “In Japan.” The final section of the epilogue is transposed over stock footage of Zamperini running with the Olympic torch. A memorial photograph of the aged war hero notes: “Louie Zamperini, 1917-2014.”
       End credits include the following acknowledgements: “The Major League Baseball trademarks depicted in this motion picture were licensed by Major League Baseball Properties, Inc.; B-24 replica by Digital Design LLC/Arizona Aircraft Replicas LLC; Stock photography courtesy of Getty Images; Stock footage provided by CBS and Draggan Mihailovich; Mutsuhiro Watanabe photo courtesy of National Archives; Photos of Russell ‘Phil’ Phillips provided by Karen Loomis; Louie Zamperini ‘In Memoriam’ photo courtesy of Sally Peterson; Photo restoration by David Mackintosh.”
       Also included in end credits is: “The Filmmakers Gratefully Thank”: “Australian Department of Defense; Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sports and Racing; Australian Rail Track Corporation; Greenland Group; Torrance Historical Society Museum,” as well as, “The filmmakers gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Joe Hobbs in the making of this film. He will forever live in our memories.” Hobbs was the film’s military costumer.
       As stated in end credits, the picture was: “Filmed in Australia with the assistance of the Australian Government; Filmed in Queensland, Australia with the assistance of Screen Queensland; Filmed in New South Wales, Australia with the assistance of the New South Wales Government; Filmed at Village Roadshow Studios, Gold Coast Australia.” End credits also acknowledge Quebec Production Services Tax Credit, and include the disclaimer: “While this picture is based upon a true story, some of the characters have been composited or invented, and a number of incidents fictionalized.”
       Louis “Louie” Zamperini first wrote about his life as an Olympian and World War II prisoner of war in Devil at My Heels, an autobiography co-written by Helen Itria. Shortly before the book was set to be published on 15 Feb 1956, a 28 Nov 1955 DV item announced that independent producer Harry Tateman was in talks to purchase film rights. However, according to a 20-26 Apr 1998 Var item, the book was optioned by Universal Pictures in 1956, with Tony Curtis in talks to star as “Louie Zamperini.”
       The project failed to move forward with Curtis, but a Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) documentary about Zamperini, which aired during the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, reignited interest the story forty years later. As noted in a 20 Apr 2014 LAT article, Zamperini’s son-in-law, television writer-director Mick Garris, sent the CBS documentary to Brillstein-Grey Films’ Matthew Baer. At the time, Brillstein-Grey had a deal at Universal Pictures, and the studio still controlled screen rights to Zamperini’s book. Universal and Brillstein-Grey teamed up to make a new deal with Zamperini, optioning his life rights for an unspecified six-figure sum, and Nicolas Cage came aboard to star and produce with his company, Saturn Films, as announced in a 13 Apr 1998 DV article.
       The project went dormant again, but Baer, Garris, and Cage remained attached. More than ten years later, in 1999, playwright Robert Schenkkan was hired to write the screenplay, then called Iron Man. Universal took the script to several directors, including Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Mel Gibson, Robert Zemeckis, and Ridley Scott, but none expressed interest. As of 22 Feb 2001, Cage was still expected to star, according to a DV item of the same date. Later, in 2002, Antoine Fuqua was briefly attached to direct. Following Fuqua’s departure, Tom Shadyac signed on to the project, but left to direct Bruce Almighty (2003, see entry). The 19 Nov 2002 DV announced that Neil Tolkin would rewrite the script, still titled Iron Man. While Tolkin’s script received mention on the “Black List,” a list of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood, Universal continued to struggle with finding a director. Nicolas Cage was no longer considered age-appropriate for the lead, as stated in the 20 Apr 2014 LAT, and Ashton Kutcher was considered to replace him.
       Meanwhile, writer Laura Hillenbrand became interested in Zamperini’s story while researching her book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend (New York, 2001), and set out to write her own version, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, published in 2010. Hillenbrand’s book became a bestseller and, again, fanned up interest in the film project. With producer Baer and executive producer Garris still attached, Universal purchased film rights to Hillenbrand’s book, as announced in a 5 Jan 2011 DV item. Francis Lawrence was hired to direct, and Richard LaGravanese to adapt the script, according to a 15 Apr 2011 HR brief. Lawrence ultimately left the project to direct The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013, see entry), and William Nicholson was brought in for another rewrite.
       In late 2012, while searching for her second directing project, Angelina Jolie came across a logline for Unbroken at her talent agency. She read the screenplay and determined that it needed work, but signed on to direct and produce, as announced in a 20 Dec 2012 LAT brief. The project was set to be Jolie’s first-ever studio film as a director after her independent film, In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011, see entry), which had been a box-office failure. Although Universal and co-financier Walden Media previously planned to spend $120 million on the picture, the budget was scaled back to $65 million due to the financial risk of hiring an “unproven director,” as stated in the 20 Apr 2014 LAT. The 26 Feb 2013 HR reported that Joel and Ethan Coen had been hired to rework the script by LaGravenese and Nicholson, and by summer 2013, the project was ready for production despite the sudden departure of Walden Media. Legendary Pictures, which had just signed a five-year co-financing and production partnership with Universal, took the place of Walden.
       A 2 Oct 2013 LAT item stated that principal photography was underway in Australia. Locations included Tamworth, Blacktown, Mission Beach, Cockatoo Island and the Gold Coast, as noted in a 10 Dec 2014 Rockhampton Morning Bulletin brief.
       The film had its world premiere on 17 Nov 2014 at the State Theatre in Sydney, Australia, according to a 10 Oct 2014 HR item. A pre-release screening was scheduled for 16 Dec 2014 in Zamperini’s hometown of Torrance, CA, as noted in the 20 Nov 2014 Torrance Daily Breeze, with tickets available only to members of the Torrance Historical Society, and partial proceeds going to the Louis Zamperini Trust Collection. U.S. theatrical release followed on 25 Dec 2014. After less than two weeks in theaters, the film had taken in $87.8 million at the box-office, as stated in the 5 Jan 2015 LAT.
       According to a 9 Dec 2014 London Express item, an online petition was created by Japanese nationalists to ban Unbroken in Japan. Protestors stated that the film’s depiction of abuse committed by Japanese soldiers during World War II was unfair and immoral. As of 5 Jan 2015, the film did not yet have a Japanese release date.
       Unbroken was named one of AFI’s Movies of the Year, and one of the Top Ten Films of 2014 by the National Board of Review, which also gave Jack O’Connell its “Breakthrough Performance” award. The film was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Cinematography (Roger Deakins), Sound Mixing (John Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, and David Lee), Sound Editing (Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
[London] Express
9 Dec 2014.
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[London] The Daily Telegraph
9 Dec 2014
p. 15.
[Rockhampton] The Morning Bulletin
10 Dec 2014
p. 11.
Daily Variety
28 Nov 1955.
---
Daily Variety
13 Apr 1998
p. 1, 16.
Daily Variety
22 Feb 2001
p. 36.
Daily Variety
19 Nov 2002
p. 15.
Daily Variety
5 Jan 2011
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Apr 2011.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Feb 2013.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Oct 2014.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Dec 2014.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 2012
Calendar, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
2 Oct 2013
Calendar, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
20 Apr 2014
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
2 Nov 2014
Calendar, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
24 Dec 2014.
---
New York Times
24 Dec 2014.
---
Screen International
24 Apr 1998.
---
Torrance Daily Breeze
20 Nov 2014
Section A, p. 6.
Variety
20-26 Apr 1998.
---
Variety
1 Dec 2014.
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CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
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PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures Present
A Jolie Pas Production and 3 Arts Entertainment Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
Unit mgr
Unit mgr
Asst unit mgr
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Co-prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
A cam op
1st cam asst
2d cam asst
B cam/steadicam op
B 1st asst cam
B 2d asst cam
Addl 2d asst cam
Cam prod asst
Digital image tech
Digital work flow consultant
Underwater dir of photog
Gaffer
Best boy
Best boy
Gennie op/Elec
Rigging gaffer
Rigging gaffer
Rigging elec best boys
Rigging elec best boys
Systems des
Systems des
Rigging elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Key dolly grip
Dolly grip
Dolly grip
Scorpio head tech
Pre-rig best boy grip
Key rigging grip
Key rigging grip
Rigging 2d in charge grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Splinter unit DP
Splinter unit asst dir
Splinter unit asst dir
Video asst op
Art dept coord
Still photog
Cam equip and services provided by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Supv art dir
Art dir
Art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Storyboard artist
Concept illustrator
Art dept coord
Des asst
Des asst
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Set des
Set des
Prop master
Asst prop master
Standby props
Standby props asst
Standby props asst
Set dec coord
Armourer
Armourer
Asst armourer
Asst armourer
Asst armourer
Leadman
Leadman
Set buyer/Dresser
Set buyer/Dresser
Set buyer/Dresser
Set buyer/Dresser
Set buyer/Dresser
Set buyer/Dresser
Buyer/Dresser
Buyer/Dresser
Set dec asst
On-set dresser
Set dresser
Const mgr
General foreman
General foreman
General foreman
Foreman
Foreman
Foreman
Foreman
Const coord
Const coord
Head plasterer
Plaster dept foreman
Leading hand
Head scenic
Scenic foreman
Scenic foreman
Scenic foreman
Scenic leading hand
Scenic leading hand
Scenic leading hand
Scenic leading hand
Scenic leading hand
Head greensman
Greens foreman
Greens foreman
Head propmaker
Foreman
Leading hand
Leading hand
Leading hand
Senior/Head mould makers
Senior/Head mould makers
Senior model maker
Model maker
Prop maker
Prop maker
Prop maker
Prop maker
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Cost supv
Cost supv
Military cost supv
Military cost
Military cost
Military cost
Key cost
Cost
Civilian cost
Civilian cost
Civilian cost
Head textile artist
Cost dept coord
Cost dept coord
Cost prod asst
Cost prod asst
Cost prod asst
MUSIC
Mus ed
Score prod
Mus preparation
Session librarian
Rec and mixed by
Rec and mixed by
Score performed by
Orch leader
Auricle op
Protocols op
Score programmer
Score coord
Treble soloist
Chorus master
Chorus master
Featured mus
Featured mus
Featured mus
Score rec and mixed at
Abbey Road score asst
Abbey Road score asst
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd des
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Dial ed
Foley supv
1st asst sd ed
ADR mixer
ADR mixer
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Foley mixer
Re-rec mix tech
Head of development
VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual eff supv
Asst VFX ed
Spec eff makeup artist
Spec eff supv
SPFX asst supv
SPFX on-set foreman
SPFX foreman
SPFX coord
OH&S pyro
SPFX supervising tech
SPFX senior tech
SPFX senior tech
SPFX senior tech
SPFX senior tech
SPFX senior tech
SPFX senior tech
SPFX senior tech
SPFX rigging foreman
SPFX tech
SPFX tech
SPFX tech
SPFX tech
SPFX tech
SPFX tech
SPFX tech
SPFX tech
Graphic des
Graphic asst
Graphic asst
Concept model maker
Title des by
End titles
Visual eff prod
Visual eff lead coord
Visual eff coord
Data wrangler
ILM visual eff prod
ILM assoc visual eff supv
ILM CG supv
ILM CG supv
Digital artist supv
Digital artist supv
Digital artist supv
Digital artist supv
Visual eff ed
Visual eff ed
Visual eff prod supv
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Visual eff prod coord
Visual eff prod coord
Prod support
Prod support
Prod support
Tech support
Tech support
Tech support
Tech support
ILM exec prod
Addl visual eff by
Visual eff exec prod
Visual eff supv
Visual eff art dir
Visual eff prod
Visual eff prod supv
Visual eff prod supv
Visual eff coord
Prod support
Prod support
Prod support
Element photog supv
Head of prod
Compositing supv
Lead digital artist
Lead digital artist
Lead digital artist
Lead digital artist
Lead digital artist
Lead digital artist
Lead digital artist
Lead digital artist
Lead digital artist
Lead digital artist
Lead digital artist
Lead digital artist
Lead digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Addl visual eff by
Visual eff supv
Visual eff supv
Visual eff prod
Visual eff prod
Visual eff exec prod
Visual eff exec prod
Compositing supv
Computer graphics supv
Visual eff coord
Lead digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Addl visual eff ed
Visual eff supv
Visual eff supv
Visual eff prod
Visual eff prod
Lead artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Digital artist
Addl visual eff by
Visual eff by
Visual eff spv
Visual eff prod
CG supv
Visual eff prod supv
Visual eff coord
Visual eff coord
Visual eff coord
Senior matte painter
Senior matte painter
Matte painter
Matte painter
Modeler
Surfacing supv
Surfacing artist
Surfacing artist
Surfacing artist
FX supv
FX artist
FX artist
FX artist
Lighting artist
FX artist
Compositing supv
Compositing artist
Compositing artist
Compositing artist
Compositing artist
Compositing artist
Compositing artist
Compositing artist
Compositing artist
Compositing artist
Roto supv
Roto artist
Roto artist
Roto artist
Roto artist
Roto artist
Matchmove and layout supv
Matchmove artist
Matchmove artist
Matchmove artist
Layout artist
Visual eff by
Visual eff supv
Visual eff exec prod
Visual eff prod
Visual eff coord
Visual eff coord
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Digital matte painter
Digital matte painter
3D artist
Pipeline eng
Texture element photog
Texture element photog
Previsualization by
Previs supv
Previs supv
Previs artist
Previs artist
Previs artist
Previs artist
Previs artist
Previs artist
Previs artist
Lidar scanning services by
MAKEUP
Dept head makeup
Key makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup asst
Contact lens & teeth tech
Dept head hair stylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Background makeup & hair
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst accountant
B-24 adv
Post prod supv
Scr supv
Supv loc mgr
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Prod coord
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Asst prod coord
Asst prod coord
Asst to Mr. Townsend
Asst to Mr. Baer
Prod secy
Prod secy
Travel coord
Prod controller
Loc accountant
1st asst accountant
1st asst accountant
2d asst accountant
2d asst accountant
2d asst accountant
2d asst accountant
2d asst accountant
2d asst accountant
2d asst accountant
2d asst accountant
Payroll accountant
Asst payroll accountant
Art dept accountant
Post prod accountant
Post prod accountant
Accounting clerk
Accounting clerk
Casting (Australia)
Casting (Japan)
Casting assoc
Casting assoc
Casting assoc
Casting asst
Casting asst
Extras casting
Extras casting
Clearances coord
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Researcher/Prod asst
On-set prod asst
On-set prod asst
On-set prod asst
Post prod asst
Post prod asst
Travel asst
Mechanic foreman
Mechanic
Mechanic
Transport mgr
Asst transport mgr
Asst unit mgr
Unit asst
Unit asst
Unit asst
Unit asst
Unit asst
Unit asst
Unit asst
Unit asst
Aerial tech op
Aerial tech
Aerial pilot
Marine coord
Unit pub
Dialect coach
Dialect coach
Japanese adv
Military adv
Military adv
Safety supv
Unit nurse
Nutritional consultant
Catering
ADR voice casting
Post prod and sd services provided by
Biographical consultant
Biographical consultant
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt advisor
Asst stunt coord
Asst stunt coord
Louie stunt double
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Young Louie double
Young Louie double
Louie running double
Louie running double
Stunts office coord
Action vehicle coord
ANIMATION
COLOR PERSONNEL
Digital Intermediate by
Digital colorist
Assoc digital colorist
DI prod
DI ed
SOURCES
SONGS
“Olympic Hymne,” written by Richard Strauss, Robert Lubahn, performed by Lock Brass Consort, conducted by James Stobart courtesy of Chandos Records by arrangement with Source/Q
“Lead Kindly Light,” traditional
“Aikoku No Hana,” music by Yuki Koseki & lyrics by Masao Fukuda, performed by Kaoru Yodo, courtesy of Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd
+
SONGS
“Olympic Hymne,” written by Richard Strauss, Robert Lubahn, performed by Lock Brass Consort, conducted by James Stobart courtesy of Chandos Records by arrangement with Source/Q
“Lead Kindly Light,” traditional
“Aikoku No Hana,” music by Yuki Koseki & lyrics by Masao Fukuda, performed by Kaoru Yodo, courtesy of Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd
“Miracles,” written by Guy Berryman, Jon Buckland, Will Champion, Chris Martin, performed by Coldplay, Coldplay appear courtesy of Parlophone Records.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Iron Man
Release Date:
25 December 2014
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Sydney, Australia: 17 November 2014
Los Angeles and New York openings: 25 December 2014
Production Date:
began summer 2013
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby® Atmos in selected theatres; Datasat Digital Sound in Selected Theatres
Color
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
49406
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During a 1943 World War II firefight, United States Air Force second lieutenant Louie Zamperini remembers his childhood in Torrance, California. Although he was a juvenile delinquent, his brother, Pete, coached him to become the fastest high school runner in U.S. history. Since Louie’s parents were Italian immigrants, he was often bullied, but Pete inspired him to endure the struggle, teaching him the phrase: “If I can take it, I can make it.” Louie was also influenced by his church priest, who told the congregation to forgive each others’ sins, and “love thy neighbor.” When Louie was elected to run in Germany’s 1936 Olympics, Pete saw him off at the train station, reminding the boy that personal suffering leads to a “lifetime of glory.” At the Berlin Olympics, Louie set a world record, running his final lap in fifty-six seconds. Back in 1943, Louie’s bomber crash-lands at a Pacific Island Air Force base. Louie and his colleagues soon learn about another mission. Later, flying the same rickety plane, lieutenant Russell “Phil” Phillips guides the aircraft into the ocean after a Japanese attack. The three survivors, Phil, Louie, and Francis “Mac” McNamara, board two inflatable rafts and fire flare guns at an airplane, but signals are not seen. Losing hope, Mac admits he ate their rations, and the men survive on raw fish and shark meat for forty-five days. Louie promises to serve God if he survives. Mac dies, and Phil and Louie are rescued by the Japanese army, becoming prisoners of war (POWs). Although beaten and tortured, Louie fails to provide his captors with blueprints for a Norden bombsight, a machine that gives the U.S. Air Force an advantage ... +


During a 1943 World War II firefight, United States Air Force second lieutenant Louie Zamperini remembers his childhood in Torrance, California. Although he was a juvenile delinquent, his brother, Pete, coached him to become the fastest high school runner in U.S. history. Since Louie’s parents were Italian immigrants, he was often bullied, but Pete inspired him to endure the struggle, teaching him the phrase: “If I can take it, I can make it.” Louie was also influenced by his church priest, who told the congregation to forgive each others’ sins, and “love thy neighbor.” When Louie was elected to run in Germany’s 1936 Olympics, Pete saw him off at the train station, reminding the boy that personal suffering leads to a “lifetime of glory.” At the Berlin Olympics, Louie set a world record, running his final lap in fifty-six seconds. Back in 1943, Louie’s bomber crash-lands at a Pacific Island Air Force base. Louie and his colleagues soon learn about another mission. Later, flying the same rickety plane, lieutenant Russell “Phil” Phillips guides the aircraft into the ocean after a Japanese attack. The three survivors, Phil, Louie, and Francis “Mac” McNamara, board two inflatable rafts and fire flare guns at an airplane, but signals are not seen. Losing hope, Mac admits he ate their rations, and the men survive on raw fish and shark meat for forty-five days. Louie promises to serve God if he survives. Mac dies, and Phil and Louie are rescued by the Japanese army, becoming prisoners of war (POWs). Although beaten and tortured, Louie fails to provide his captors with blueprints for a Norden bombsight, a machine that gives the U.S. Air Force an advantage by compensating for airspeed and distance. He and Phil, both emaciated, believe they will be executed, but they are blindfolded and sent to different POW camps. Standing at attention with his eyes uncovered, Louie captures the interest of the detention center’s sadistic leader, Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe, who failed to become an officer and uses violence as an outlet for his humiliation. He orders Louie to look him in the eye, then beats him with his trademark bamboo cane. Sometime later, Watanabe learns that Louie is a former Olympian and orchestrates a rigged race with a Japanese guard, knowing that Louie will lose. As the boy struggles to the finish line, Watanabe canes him and calls him a failure. Back in the barracks, Louie learns the Allies are making progress and have a blueprint for victory. As time passes, however, he loses hope but remembers his brother Pete’s words – “If I can take it, I can make it.” On another evening, Louie is caned by Watanabe, who declares the Olympian has been pronounced dead in the U.S. However, he sends Louie to Tokyo with two men from a radio station to deliver a propaganda speech, claiming that he is alive and well. After the broadcast, Louie is asked to read an anti-American script, but refuses to do so and is sent back to Watanabe. In revenge for Louie’s defiance, Watanabe orders the other POWs to punch Louie in the face, but they refuse. Watanabe procures Louie’s long-lost comrade, Phil, who is beaten and barely alive. To save his friend’s life, Louie begs his fellow prisoners to bash his face and he is punched until nightfall. Sometime later, Watanabe admits he sees Louie as a partial friend, since they share the same indelible spirit. He asks Louie to congratulate him on a new promotion, which will take him to a larger camp, but Louie remains mum. After Watanabe’s departure, the prisoners witness an attack by their own Air Force, and believe the war will soon be won. However, a fellow prisoner reports that all POWs will be executed if Japan loses the war. The men are led on chain gang through bombed out cities with few Japanese civilian survivors and are loaded onto a train. At the last stop, the POWs find themselves at a coal mine, and Louie is reunited with Watanabe. The man canes Louie when he refuses to look his nemesis in the eye. Watanabe announces that any man too weak to work will be executed, and, later, the blackened, coal-covered POWs are told that President Franklin D. Roosevelt is dead. One day, Louie is intentionally tripped and injures his ankle, but he continues to work to stay alive. When he momentarily stops to rest, Watanabe sees an opportunity to kill Louie and orders him to lift a wood plank over his head. Although Watanabe is convinced the former Olympian will fail, Louie musters his strength and astounds onlookers by raising the thick timber slab into the air. Watanabe makes good on his promise not to kill Louie, but beats him mercilessly. Overcome by his own malice, Watanabe falls to his knees and cries. In the coming days, Louie regains enough strength to stand in line with other POWs and a Japanese officer announces the end of the war. When the prisoners are invited to bathe in a nearby river, they believe they will be going on a death march, but an American bomber flies overhead, confirming the Japanese defeat. The men cheer and embrace in the river below. As the emancipated soldiers revel in new supplies of food, magazines, and cigarettes, Louie creeps into Watanabe’s deserted quarters. There, he finds the man’s sadistic cane and a photograph of the warden as a boy. The image shows young Watanabe standing next to his austere, highly ranked father – the man he could never live up to. Sometime later, Louie returns to Torrance, kisses the ground, and is reunited with his family. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.