Angelina Jolie follows up her directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey, with Unbroken, a film adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand's account of the fascinating life of Louis Zamperini. I read the fantastic book in 2010, and was enamored with the story of the incredible Zamperini and all of his accomplishments. Jolie seemed like an odd choice to direct this serious drama, but I entered the theater prepared for the inspiring story that the book portrayed.
A flashback reveals a young Louis who is bullied by his classmates for being the son of Italian immigrants. Encouraged by his older brother who reminds him that "a lifetime of glory is worth a moment of pain," he uses this trauma to fuel his training as a track runner. Soon, he qualifies for the 1936 Olympics, where he runs a record earning final lap.
As he prepares for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, WWII breaks out, and Louis's Olympic dreams are put on hold. It is during the years of the war that his will is truly tested. Engine failure leaves Louis stranded in the ocean with two others for over 40 days, only to be rescued by Japanese forces who promptly place them in a POW camp. In the camp, Louis is faced with sadistic physical and psychological torture.
There is no denying the skill and care that this movie has been made with. Both on and off screen talent put in a commendable effort in portraying this fascinating story. Unfortunately, the emotional heft of the book is absent in the film. In the book, Louis faces tremendous obstacles including alcoholism and domestic violence, all stemming from the residual PTSD from his 2 1/2 years in the camp. He doesn't find true redemption until he commits his life to his religion. In the film, all events following the camp are relegated to a brief caption before the credits. This denies the story the emotional turmoil and restitution that makes Zamperini's life so inspiring. Instead, the film makes Louis into a kind of super human who, no mater the obstacle (the torture scenes are quite long and graphic), suffers through and overcomes. In the end, the film ends up being serviceable, but never the inspiring story of redemption that it deserves to be.
Have you seen this film or read the book on which it is based? How do you think the two compare? What other film adaptations would you like to see reviewed?