Angelina Jolie's film on WWII hero Louis Zamperini skips much of his Christian faith

Louis ZamperiniFloatjon/Wikimedia

Actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie will bring the life of Louis Zamperini to the big screen, but her portrayal of the late American leaves out a significant aspect of his legacy.

Zamperini – who endured a Japanese prisoner of war camp, alcoholism, and other struggles – was a devout Christian and inspirational speaker before his passing.

In her new film, Jolie reportedly omits much of his spiritual transformation, however. Although the dramatic film touches on Zamperini's faith, it does not communicate the full extent of his commitment to Christ and evangelical ministry.

The Universal Pictures film is an adaptation of the best-selling book "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand.

Zamperini, a former cross-country track athlete, carried the torch in five Olympic games, and enlisted in the Air Force during World War II. He survived a plane crash, 47 days floating on a raft in the Pacific Ocean, more than two years as a Japanese prisoner of war, and substance abuse and psychological disorders when he returned to the United States. He would go on to dedicate his life to Christ, and forgive his captors.

Jolie said that after reading the biography, she became obsessed with Zamperini's story.

"The way Laura writes about him is the way I like to read about people," she told the L.A. Times. "It was like I was witnessing the birth of a man – it was something I wanted to tell my sons about."

The mother of six hesitated to take on the project however, due to the enormity of the story.

"I wasn't really looking for something of this size," she admitted. Jolie's directorial debut was a controversial film about the Bosnian War, "In the Land of Blood and Honey," that was met with a mixed response.

But after a lightbulb moment in the middle of the night, Jolie changed her mind about taking on the project. She met with Universal Pictures – who had owned the rights to Zamperini's story for more than 50 years – and said that her movie "would end with Zamperini's liberation but not include his bout with alcoholism and Billy Graham-inspired religious conversion".

Christian media critic Ted Baehr said the decision was a mistake.

"'Unbroken' is one of the best books ever written," he said. "The great story is that he got out of his anger problem (with PTSD) by coming to Christ."

Zamperini passed away on July 2 at the age of 97.

"Unbroken" will be released on Christmas Day, Dec. 25. View the trailer for the film below.

Universal Pictures