Angelina Jolie never expected to direct a film with shark attacks, plane crashes and prisoner-of-war camps, but she found the story of a World War Two hero so compelling she tackled them in ‘Unbroken,’ a biopic about survival, faith and forgiveness.

The Oscar-winning actress and second-time director was half-way through Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling book about Olympic runner and POW survivor Louis ‘Louie’ Zamperini when she knew she wanted to make it into a film. ‘I would never have thought of myself handling that kind of cinematic filmmaking,’ said Jolie, 39. ‘But I cared about the story so I had to suddenly learn to do all those things.’

The film opens in US theaters on Christmas. Shot in Australia with a script by Joel and Ethan Coen, ‘Unbroken’ follows Zamperini as a bombardier in an air fight with enemy planes and through two harrowing crashes. After his plane plummets into the Pacific in 1943, he survives 47 days adrift in a life raft battling starvation and sharks. He is fished out of the ocean, imprisoned in Japanese POW camps and tortured, pushed to the edge of human endurance. ‘It’s a movie for everybody,’ said Jolie.