Friday Flicks: Unbroken

A review of a book to film adaptation.

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.

The film opens with Louis(Jack O'Connell) on board an American WWII bomber. Zamperini's charisma is apparent as he jokes with his comrades during the tense mission. Immediately, his will is tested as his plane faces a retaliation attack from the Japanese forces. Louis remains calm as he fights to overcome these insurmountable odds. . . a theme that seems to be at the heart of Jolie's film.

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?

This entry was posted on Friday, January 9, 2015 and is filed under ,,,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

2 Responses to “Friday Flicks: Unbroken”

  1. I liked the movie, great acting from the lead! However, I also found it lacked the real story showing why he is indeed unbroken. It is not because he didn't give up during the physical pain when he was in the camp, but like you said, because despite his years of mental and psychological struggles, he got through it. I am not religious, but I wish it showed how his faith shaped him and motivated him as I found that it was one of the most important things in his life.

    1. I agree Jillian. I wonder if there is a longer cut of the film that includes this part of his life.


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