A chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.
Release Date: December 25, 2014
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Author: Amber Clayson
Amber Clayson has a bachelor's degree in communications from BYU.
The unforgettable story of Olympian and American war hero Louis Zamperiniis being told on the big screen.
Zamperini's experiences as an “untamable” child, Olympic athlete, prisoner of war and distraught veteran on the brink of divorce who eventually found God are chronicled in the biography "Unbroken," written by Laura Hillenbrand. The book was on the New York Times best-seller list for three years. Angelina Jolie directed the film adaptation, which stars Jack O'Connell as Zamperini.
Zamperini's journey is one of faith — both in himself and, eventually, in Jesus Christ. And while the film version is more subtle in its depictions of prayer and belief in God and does not address Zamperini's post-war conversion, faith and Christianity are integral parts of his life story as portrayed in Hillenbrand's book.
Zamperini grew up in Torrance, California, and loved to get into mischief. He found structure and success in running, which led him to the University of Southern California and, eventually, the 1936 Olympics, where he placed eighth in the 5,000 meters. His hopes of competing in the 1940 Olympics were crushed when Europe exploded into war. Zamperini was drafted and became a bombardier for the American Air Corps.
During a rescue mission to search for an American plane that had disappeared over the ocean, the plane Zamperini and his crew were flying began to have engine failures and crashed into the ocean. After suffering 47 days floating in a raft, he was taken captive by the Japanese military. Zamperini spent two years in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps where he was beaten, starved and tormented by the guards.
Zamperini survived the camps and made it back home to his family. He died this past year on July 2 from pneumonia at age 97.
Though Zamperini didn’t grow up a practicing Christian — he was described by Hillenbrand as being “thrilled by the crashing of boundaries” — there were multiple times throughout his ordeal where he recognized the hand of God, according to the biography.
The most significant moment followed the crash of the Green Hornet, the plane Zamperini and his crew were flying on the rescue mission. As the plane hit the ocean and began to sink, Hillenbrand writes, Zamperini became entangled in plane wires. He passed out underwater and then awoke only to find himself sinking deeper and deeper with the plane but no longer tangled. Zamperini managed to kick up to the surface with the help of his life jacket.
“If he had passed out from the pressure, and the plane had continued to sink and the pressure to build, why had he woken again?” Hillenbrand asks. “And how had he been loosed from the wires while unconscious?”
The seed for religious faith was planted.
Zamperini’s faith continued to grow as he spent 47 days — dehydrated, exhausted and starved — on the raft with fellow soldiers Phil and Mac, the only other survivors from the crash. The life-threatening conditions led Phil and Zamperini to turn to prayer. Twice, Zamperini promised that if God would spare his life, he would serve him forever.
One of those prayerful promises is depicted in the film when the men are fighting a storm, trying to keep their raft afloat in the middle of the crashing waves.
According to Hillenbrand's biography, it is this promise that Zamperini remembered when attending a sermon by the evangelical preacher Billy Graham years after returning from war. In an interview with the Faith Community Church in his old age, Zamperini talked about the moment he recognized the hand God had in his life and was filled with faith and forgiveness.
"God kept his promise," Zamperini said. "And I started to leave (the sermon) when I thought about that and I thought, 'You know, he brought me home alive, and here I am turning my back on him.' So when we got to the main aisle, I turned to the right and went back to the prayer room and made a confession of my faith in Christ."
The book and the film depict the horrors Zamperini experienced as a prisoner of war. He was beaten, starved and deprived of water. He was forced to dance, exercise and humiliate himself by a multitude of guards. But the most rampant offender was Japanese sergeant Mutsuhiro Watanabe, aka “The Bird.” Hillenbrand explained that the Bird had a special fixation on Zamperini, stalking, tormenting and beating him every day.
After being liberated after two years in prisoner-of-war camps and returning to the United States, Zamperini tried to live a normal life. He married and seemingly “moved on,” but the Bird continued to haunt him. His inability to forgive slowly ate away at his soul. God was forgotten. Thoughts of murdering his tormentor festered in his heart, destroying his health and marriage.
Zamperini's inability to forgive left him "with murder in his head," writes Hillenbrand. "A once singularly hopeful man now believed that his only hope lay in murder."
But in a moment, it was gone. According to the biography, Zamperini was first introduced to Graham when his wife convinced him to go hear the preacher speak. The first night Zamperini attended, Graham told the story of Jesus Christ forgiving the woman taken in adultery. Zamperini was twisted up inside. At first, he refused to go back, but he then gave in to his wife's pleadings. The second time Zamperini attended a sermon, Graham spoke of war, suffering and miracles.
"What God asks of men," Hillenbrand records Graham testifying, "is faith."
The words sparked Zamperini's memory of the promises he once made to God.
“What resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him,” writes Hillenbrand. “He was not the worthless, broken, forsaken man that the Bird had striven to make of him. In a single, silent moment, his rage, his fear, his humiliation and helplessness, had fallen away.”
While the biography goes into great detail about Zamperini's change of heart, the film version of "Unbroken" omits the postwar conversion and Graham himself. However, it does acknowledge, in closing, that Zamperini "made good on his promise to serve God."
Zamperini became a Christian speaker, traveling around the United States telling his story. He established the nonprofit Victory Boys Camp in California to help troubled youths rediscover their purpose in life. Hillenbrand writes that Zamperini remained firm in his conviction that “everything happened for a reason, and would come to good.”
In a final act of forgiveness, Zamperini wrote a letter to the Bird admitting to his post-war horrors and sharing his discovery of faith.
“Love replaced the hate I had for you,” Zamperini wrote. “Christ said, ‘Forgive your enemies and pray for them.’ ”Author:January 12th, 2015 · Details
New Year's Day has past, butit's not too late to join the millions of people around the world setting goals to fix their errors and be better people in 2015. Here are three movies about redemption to check out while you make your resolutions.
The title of the film is named after the famous racehorse Seabiscuit — a horse that was basically given up on due to his small stature. In the film, there are other characters that are down on their luck. The jockey, Red Pollard, was blind in one eye after taking too many punches in a boxing match and considered too big to be a jockey. The trainer, Tom Smith, was older and ostracized for his strange tactics with the horses. The owner, Charles Howard, had lost his only child in a car accident and lost his wife to grief. As Howard quips, “the horse is too small, the jockey too big, the trainer too old, and I'm too dumb to know the difference.” However, when the run-down men and horse get together they find redemption together. Turn on “Seabiscuit” to see a great underdog film with powerful messages about redemption.
In “Unbroken,” Louis Zamperini begins as a rough and rugged boy who is known for his toughness and adeptness with his fists. When his loved ones convince Zamperini to channel his energy into running, he quickly becomes a star track athlete who eventually runs for the USA in the Olympics in Berlin. After the Olympics, Zamperini is drafted to fight in World War II. During the war, his plane is shot down and he becomes a prisoner of war with a sadistic guard, nicknamed “The Bird,” trying to break his spirit. While the film is tough to watch, particularly the torture Zamperini endures, there are stirring overarching themes of forgiveness and redemption. Go see “Unbroken” if you are in the mood to see a movie about the indomitable will of a human soul.
In “Les Miserables,” Jean Valjean is a man who is arrested for stealing bread to feed his family. After serving hard labor for many years for this petty crime, Valjean is jaded and angry with the world. When Valjean is taken in by a priest, he steals from the monastery but does not get far before he is again arrested and brought to confront the priest. When Valjean reaches the monastery, the priest informs the policemen that he had given Valjean the stolen items and even adds to his loot. This act of mercy and forgiveness drastically changes Valjean’s opinions and attitudes about life as he seeks to give his life to God. Mingled in the main story of Valjean are other stories of hope and redemption. Check out “Les Miserables” if you want to see a movie about hope that people can and do change.January 9th, 2015 · Details
Laura Hillenbrand’s book Unbroken has spent more than 180 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. At least 15 of those weeks it sat comfortably in the number one spot. Now the story of Louis Zamperini comes to the big screen under the direction of Angelina Jolie.January 7th, 2015 · Details
By Curtis Linnell
I need start off with a disclaimer. I did not read the book “Unbroken” even though dozens of friends told me to. I apologize I will not be able to tell if the book is better than the movie. I will say that the movie has inspired me to read the book.
What is it?
“Unbroken” tells the story of Louie Zamperini who ran track for the U.S. at the 1936 Olympics, and was shot down over the Pacific during World War II. Zamperini survived 47 days at sea just to be rescued by the enemy and sent to a Japanese prison camp for three years. It is one of the greatest true stories brought to the big screen in some time.
In only her second feature as a director, Angelina Jolie showcases that she is serious about focusing more on directing. The film is beautifully shot. She also gets some pretty good performances from the actors. Louie Zamperini is portrayed by British actor Jack O’Connell who is fantastic in the film. O’Connell is a star on the rise and definitely did the part justice. The script had some help from the popular brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, who with a few other writers had the hard task of turning the book into a 2 hour and 17 minute movie.
“Unbroken” is a very good film but it is not a great film. I can see why it was not nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best film like the studio was hoping. The story itself is so good that it can’t help but inspire audiences. Most studios in Hollywood could have pulled this movie off since it is such a great story. It almost feels like a well-done documentary would have had the same effect as the movie did. There was a lot the film did right and some things it did not.
What's in it?
The first half of the movie including the part lost at sea was done incredibly well. There is great character development and it is an emotional ride of engaging ups and downs. You really start to get to know and love Zamperini. The second half is where it started lacking the fire that would have made this a great movie. It may be that the reality of the true story isn’t meant for the big screen. In the second half of the movie, as Zamperini endlessly suffers and is tortured, the punishment and harsh treatment becomes so routine that a viewer may easily become emotionally numb to what must have been a horrifying and agonizing experience. Not to say they should not have shown all the afflictions he had, but not much breaks up all the punishment he took while in the prison. It was an ambitious feat to take on so much material and try to squeeze it into a two-hour movie.
At the end of the film there is text on the screen explaining what happened to Zamperini following the war. It would have been great to see a little of that in the movie itself. It would have brought everything home.
Will I like it?
“Unbroken” is still a fine film and it is worth full price of admission. You will leave the theater inspired and will have more love and respect for the men and women who served and still serve our country. Louie Zamperini passed away earlier this year and this movie is a great tribute to him and all he stood for.
Although rated PG-13, “Unbroken” has some pretty heavy subject matter that may not be suitable for children. The violence against Zamperini is hard to watch at times.
Grade: B+ In a Nutshell: This is an inspiring, true story that features the strength of the human spirit against all odds. Director Angelina Jolie was so taken with Lauren Hillenbrand’s best-selling novel, that she felt compelled to bring it to the big screen. The story is fascinating, but the viewing is exhausting and heart-wrenching. Uplifting Theme: · The end of the movie reminds us that “the way forward is not revenge, but forgiveness.” · “If you can take it, you can make it.” – Louis’ brother, Pete Things I liked: · The main actors dieted for months to appear as their characters would have looked after surviving 47 harrowing days on a raft in the ocean. They lost even more weight in the prisoner of war camps. That’s dedicated acting. · The casting was very good. Young Louis looked just like the older Louis. · The audience laughed when the starving soldiers on the raft punched a fish and a shark in order to eat them. There were a few moments of subtle humor, but otherwise, this film is extremely sobering. It should make you hesitate before complaining about anything again. · The cinematography of Roger Deakins (True Grit and Skyfall ) is very well done. Some of the vistas were extraordinary. · I always appreciate it at the end of a true story when the audience is shown how things ended up years later. · Jack O’Connell (Louis Zamperini) did an outstanding job. Takamasa Ishihara was so believably cruel as Watanabe that the audience cringed every time he appeared on the screen. Things I didn’t like: · The film is pretty long and your heart can’t take much more. You feel like you’ve been punched in the gut, although your spirit soars with hope as you watch Louis stand up each time he falls. Angelina Jolie chooses to spend 2 hours focusing on how Louis was tortured in various ways and very little time showing us more about his character development. · I’m sad that the real Louis Zamperini died right before the movie came out. What an amazing man he was. I’m especially impressed that he returned to Japan to face his tormentors and forgive them. · As inspiring as the story is, there should have been more powerful and emotional moments in the telling. Inspiring lines: · “A moment of pan is worth a lifetime of glory.” – Pete · “Here’s the plan…you go on living the best you can and try to have some fun along the way. – Phil · “We beat them by making it to the end of the war alive.” – Blackie · “It is necessary to have respect. No respect, no order.” - Watanabe · “I’m glad it’s you. “ – Phil “I’m glad it’s me too.” - Louis Tips for Parents: There are intense sequences of brutality and violence, as well as some charred bodies in one scene in particular. There is some profanity, but not much, especially considering this is a war movie. People used to call Italian immigrants WASPS and DAGOS. After the movie, you can talk to your kids about bullying and name calling.
This is an amazing story and he went through so much but it seriously is 2 hours or showing this man get beat up ect...... I wish it could have at least showed 1 hour of the good ending instead of giving 5 minutes of time to the good at the end.December 25th, 2014 · Details
“Unbroken” is an experience more than a movie. It is draining, exhausting and ultimately uplifting. It is a film you should certainly see once, though you probably won’t want to see it again.
Unbroken, then, is hard to watch but easy to praise. The horror of the inhumanity it depicts is wrenching. The triumph of one man's spirit and heart is both astounding and deeply inspiring.
Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie breaks into the top ranks of American directors with “Unbroken,” showing an exceptional understanding not just of actors, but of tone, scale, and letting the camera tell the story. Working with the magnificent cinematography of Roger Deakins (“True Grit,” “Skyfall”), she adopts a classical style well-suited to the WWII setting, but every choice is careful, thoughtful, and powerful.
“Unbroken,” her film of Laura “Seabiscuit” Hillenbrand’s book about ex-Olympian Louis Zamperini’s true life survivor’s story, stumbles into most every movie of the genre in ways that suggest she hasn’t figured out how these things work. Suspense and pathos evade her as she turns an admittedly unwieldy biography into a dull, perfunctory and truncated film.
As directed by Angelina Jolie, it is occasionally powerful, with soaring visuals. It also is, however, stately and slow to the point of tedium.