Reason for the Rating: War violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language.
Plot Summary: Louis Zamparini, a one-time Olympian, endures Japanese imprisonment during World War II.
PopFam Recommends: A must-see for anyone over the age of 15.
Louis Zamaprini led an amazing life. He was an Olympic athlete who set a world record. He survived being lost at sea for over 40 days. And he endured years of imprisonment in Japanese prison camps. His life story is one that will cause you to pause and consider the power of love, hate, and forgiveness.
"Louie" Zamparini, (Jack O’Connell), was a rebellious son of Italian immigrants. He enjoyed smoking, stealing, and drinking about as much as he enjoyed running from the police. It was all part of his defiant spirit, which Louie couldn't seem to control, until his brother, Pete (Alex Russell), saw how fast Louie could run from trouble and decided to get Louie into running track. Soon Louie was breaking records and on his way to the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics.
Unbroken shows how Louie’s bold spirit didn’t just prepare him for endurance running, but for the stamina he would need during the war years. After the Olympics, Louie joined the Armed Forces to fight the Japanese during World War II. As misfortune would have it though, his airplane crashed into the ocean, leaving Louie alive with just two other crewmen. Their survival is amazing in itself, but they are ultimately rescued by the Japanese navy, and Louie is taken to a prison camp, where the treatment of prisoners of war was ghastly. Angelina Jolie and the Coen brothers knit Louie's story together in a way that moves the audience to rage and sympathy, as we watch Louie suffer at the hand of “The Bird,” (Takamasa Ishihara), the commander of the camp. While it's appalling to see how people can treat people, it's also encouraging to see how these prisoners cared and supported each other in the midst of evil. True to Louie’s spirit, he never gives up or gives in to despair.
While Unbroken seems to be a story of human cruelty, it’s really one of forgiveness. I think the greatest disappointment in the movie is that it leaves out the real end of the story, and the real turning point in Louie's life. After coming home, Louie falls into alcohol abuse as he fights the demons of his memory. Flashbacks. Anger. But upon attending a Billy Graham crusade, Louie gives his life to Jesus, and is immediately changed. Alcohol, gone. Anger, gone. And he is able to forgive those who so cruelly abused him during the war. Although it would have made for a very long movie, this is the part of the story that makes it powerful and meaningful (Jolie did put a P.S. at the end, noting that turning to God allowed him to escape PTSD and forgive those who had tortured him so severely).
Regardless, I still recommend it. Not only is it good for conversation and contemplation, but it's a story that can change a life. Although it has a PG-13 rating, the reality of the abuse suffered is a heavy load for some kids to bear, and should be kept in mind if your child wants to see this movie.
While Louis Zamperini died in 2014, shortly before the release of his story on film. I think he would have been proud to know so many people are seeing his movie and wondering at the power of forgiveness.
Let’s Talk About It
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:
• Why was Louie able to forgive his Japanese captures so completely, while others, who also know Jesus, are unable to forgive lesser offenses?
• Pete's words of encouragement stayed with Louie during tough times, and gave him strength and hope. Tell about some advice given to you that has been especially meaningful.
• Do you think fewer people would have seen Unbroken if Jolie had included Louie's conversion and the life changing power of Christ?
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