Reviewed by: John Decker
“Hate is self-destructive.” (Louis Zamperini, CBS interview, “A war hero's ‘Unbroken’ bond with his biographer”)
Japanese WWII prisoner of war camps / war crimes
About Louis Zamperini— His wife and he became born-again Christians after attending Billy Graham crusades. “He said as soon as he made his decision for Christ he forgave his captors and never had another nightmare again. Later Graham helped Zamperini launch a new career as a Christian inspirational speaker.”
What is REPENTANCE?
Jack O'Connell … Louis Zamperini
Finn Wittrock … Francis “Mac” McNamara
Jai Courtney … Hugh 'Cup' Cuppernell
Domhnall Gleeson … Russell Allen 'Phil' Phillips
Garrett Hedlund … John Fitzgerald
Alex Russell … Pete Zamperini
Spencer Lofranco … Harry Brooks
Ken Watanabe … Omori officer
Luke Treadaway … Miller
Sophie Dalah … Virginia
Morgan Griffin … Cynthia Applewhite
John D'Leo … Young Pete
Sean O'Donnell … Boy(s) (voice)
John Magaro … Frank A. Tinker
Maddalena Ischiale … Louise Zamperini
See all »
|Director||Angelina Jolie—“In the Land of Blood and Honey” (2011)|
3 Arts Entertainment
“Survival. Resilience. Redemption.”
Recommended Sequel: “Unbroken: Path to Redemption” (2018)
“Unbroken” is based on the life of Louis Zamperini, an American WWII war hero who passed away this year (1917–2014). Mr. Zamperini certainly had an exceptional life, not the least of which is his exceptional story of repentance and grace which occurred after enduring so much at the hands of the Japanese in concentration camps. That story of grace is film-worthy indeed, but you’re not going to get it in the film “Unbroken”. For all of what this movie contains, good or ill, it does not contain that story of grace but meagerly, in some text, at the very end of the film.
For me, personally, the disappointment of not getting his whole story, not just from a religious point of view but also from a film-goers perspective, was pronounced. I felt like I was dropped off at the end of Act II in a three act play. Does the film contain the story of Mr. Zamperini’s redemption to some extent? Well, the way it starts off, you might expect it to. Let’s just say that it does not write God out of his life entirely, and you certainly get some religious content here and there. But the magnificent story of Mr. Zamperini’s redemption is lost in “Unbroken”.
If you’re planning on seeing “Unbroken,” I highly recommend reading this article first.
The portrayal of war, endurance, torture and survival in this film are fairly well done. For the record, my wife liked it a lot more than I did. In “Unbroken,” you do get a good dose of what Mr. Zamperini’s life was like, though I do not find the way in which the story was told to be very compelling, which is surprising, considering the contributions by the award-winning Coen brothers.
The style of violence in “Unbroken” is largely not gory. The beatings are painful to behold, and the portrayal of war and suffering is tough to stomach, but the blood and guts are tempered for this genre.
As for sexuality, there are some Vargas pin-up posters, that is the largest extent of female body portrayal. At more than one point, a boy is looking up women’s skirts. There is not a whole lot of male nudity, perhaps none, with the exception of one very long scene which contains full backside nudity of two men. Part of the scene even flashes to the front where male genitalia may be visible for a short moment.
As for profanity, this film contains, in most scenes, as much of that as one might expect from a war film. It does not shy from regular cursing, including using the Lord’s name in vain a few times (GD, Jesus, etc.).
Substances: There is a little smoking and drinking, but it is not a large part of the film.
For me it is truly tragic, what was left out of this movie—the story of grace. Young Zamperini’s mischievousness is an all too familiar illustration of the human spirit which God made. It is my conviction that the mischievousness of young men reflects how God made them—uncovering falsehoods, creating transparency on the fly and defying the norm. The sinful aspect of it all does not negate that we were made in His magnificent image. We, His creation, may fit no more well in a box than He does.
“In October 1950, Zamperini went to Japan, gave his testimony, and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ through an interpreter.” The colonel in charge of the Sugamo Prison encouraged any of the prisoners who recognized Zamperini to come forward and meet him again. “Zamperini threw his arms around each of them. Once again, he explained the Christian Gospel of forgiveness to them. The prisoners were somewhat surprised by Zamperini's genuine affection for those who had once ill-treated him,” and Zamperini reports that “some gave their lives to Christ.”
In God’s sight, it is totally unacceptable for a Christian to refuse to forgive others. Remember the parable of the master who forgave a guilty man who owed him an amount so enormous that he could never hope to pay it back? The master completely forgave him. But, afterward, that forgiven man roughly grabbed another who owed him a very small amount, and allowed him no time to repay—showed him no mercy—and threw him into prison. When the master heard of this, he was FURIOUS and his punishment was swift.
In that parable, the Master represents God. And the forgiven man represents you—if you have similarly FAILED to forgive another, when Christ’s blood has paid your unpayable debt to God, and He has forgiven you for everything you have ever done wrong—and for your continuing failures to do everything that is truly right and good.
“In a word, live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship…can survive. Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t find fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts…” —Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
Unfortunately, for lack of the whole story, the story can be lost altogether. One writer for Boston.com remarked in her review of the book “Unbroken,” that “Finding God is an all too familiar ending. I’d prefer to remember Zamperini as a child who rigged church bells to chime the way he wanted.” Wrong, Maria. Young Zamperini is the man that God made. Old Zamperini is the man that God renewed.
And so utterly, this movie was for me, a disappointment.
Violence: Heavy to extreme / Profanity: Heavy—“G*d-d*mn,” “Jesus,” “God,” “Oh G*d,” “Oh my G*d,” “d*mn” (5), f-words (2), “son of a b*tch,” s-words (3), “*ss” / Sex/Nudity: Heavy
“When Zamperini turned 81, he was invited to carry the flame at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. He ran through the streets of Naoetsu, where he had once marched as a prisoner. This time, he was there as a free man—carrying the torch of the ancient Greeks in his right hand and the sacred fire of Christ in his heart.” (by Tonya Stoneman, In Touch Ministries)
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.