Jack O’Connell. Jack O’Connell. Jack O’Connell. Remember that name, you’ll likely be hearing it a lot. The English actor is all the rage for critics because, well, he’s terrific. In 2014, he’s dazzled in two roles: the prison drama “Starred Up” (read our review) and the Berlin/Telluride/Toronto/NYFF lauded Irish “Troubles” thriller “’71” (read our review). And Hollywood has already taken notice and pounced. Earlier this year he appeared in “300: Rise of an Empire” (hey, sometimes you have to pay those bills), and later this year he’ll be seen in “Unbroken.”
Which leads us to Angelina Jolie. Her last film, “Maleficent,” is the second highest grossing film of 2014, and will likely stay that way. Asserting her global dominance with a movie that made almost $800 million worldwide, Jolie could do anything she wanted, any role, and with a fat pay day. Instead, the actress is tending to her blossoming directorial career. “Unbroken” is her sophomore feature-length effort and it’s already being positioned as this year’s big awards contender for Universal.
Here’s the official synopsis:
Academy Award® winner Angelina Jolie directs and produces Unbroken, an epic drama that follows the incredible life of Olympian and war hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) who, along with two other crewmen, survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash in WWII—only to be caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s (“Seabiscuit: An American Legend”) enormously popular book, Unbroken brings to the big screen Zamperini’s unbelievable and inspiring true story about the resilient power of the human spirit.
Starring alongside O’Connell are Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock—the airmen with whom Zamperini endured perilous weeks adrift in the open Pacific—Garrett Hedlund and John Magaro as fellow POWs, Alex Russell as Zamperini’s brother, Pete, and, in his English-language debut, Japanese actor Miyavi, as the brutal camp guard known to the men only as “The Bird.” The film also boasts a significant rewrite from Ethan and Joel Coen as well.
As for O’Connell, stardom awaits, but he seems grounded. “Thankfully I’ve been able to keep my priorities straight and do work for the right reasons,” he said in an interview with The Playlist earlier this year. “And now all of a sudden, a director of Angelina Jolie’s caliber turns up and trusts me with the lead role in her next feature film.” Good fortune it seems, but the actor is also more than deserving.
“Unbroken” arrives in theaters on Christmas Day. Watch the new trailer below.