“I'd made it this far and refused to give up, because all my life, I had always finished the race,” wrote American World War II POW and Olympic long-distance runner Louis Zamperini in his autobiography “Devil at My Heels.” It's a powerful line considering Zamperini's tragic life story, one the new trailer for “Unbroken” boils down the quote Sean Parker-style to its punchiest (and slightly nonsensical) bit: “All my life I had always finished the race.” Sure, that sounds inspirational.
Two months out from release and without any critical reactions, Angelina Jolie's Zamperini biopic has already wiggled its way on to Best Picture prediction lists. It's the complete prestige package: There's Jolie, a beloved up-and-comer, star Jack O'Connell, already having a hell of a year with “Starred Up” and festival praise for “'71,” there's Roger Deakins behind the camera, Joel and Ethan Coen on scripting duties, and a source material that's part sports movie, part war drama.
So why is this “Unbroken” trailer trying so hard? The editorialized Zamperini quote is only the capper to a sentimental two-and-a-half-minute sizzle reel. The spot gives a better look at the bombardier's turbulent time in the Japanese POW camp while drowning it in music cues from “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and M83's “Wait,” putting it in company with “The Fault in Our Stars.” Underneath the manipulation tactics, Jolie's drama looks striking and viscerally compelling. It doesn't – or, hopefully, shouldn't – need to sweep us up with overdramatic music. There's a self-aware quality to this trailer that's only served to undercut purported contenders of the past. Remember that “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”/U2 trailer?
Update: Find two new posters for “Unbroken” on the next page.
Along with the trailer, Universal Pictures has released two new one-sheets for “Unbroken.” The first, an ominous shadow:
The second, Jack O'Connell showing some backside. His jump into action tentpole territory isn't a matter of if, it's when.
“Unbroken” arrives Dec. 25, 2014