Sunday, January 4, 2015

Unbroken - Movie Review

I had the opportunity to see the movie UnbrokenI found the movie to be an almost religious experience, however, in the spirit of full disclosure, my wife was bored and likened the movie to The Life of Pi which she felt was too long because the movie spent too much time in a boat.

Unbroken is an excellent movie, but perhaps a lot was lost on the audience which had not read the book. Unbroken is not for the younger audience as it deals with harsh and difficult themes with are as difficult then as they are now with some of the recent revelations of torture by our own government.

Angelina Jolie directed the movie, which is based upon the bestselling book of the same name by Laura Hillenbrand and recounts a portion of the life of Louis Zamperini, at least though the period immediately after World War II. Louis Zamperini died during July 2014, before the movie was released, but he was able to view and approve a rough cut if the movie it is reported.

If it were not a true story, no one would believe the details which are depicted in the movie. 

Jack O'Connell plays Louis who was an Olympic Runner for the United States in the 1936 Games in Berlin. He began running during his teen-age years to find an outlet for his enthusiastic approach to life which nearly caused him to be sent to reform school--he was a troublemaker and exasperated his parents and everyone who loved him. As a note--he was a great runner and widely expected to be one of the first to break the 4 minute mile. He joined the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier on B-24's in the Pacific Theater. On a reconnaissance mission to find the crew of a lost B-24, his aircraft crashed into the Pacific Ocean and he found himself, along with his pilot, adrift for 47 days only to be "rescued" by the Japanese and subjected to incredible mental and physical torture during the remainder of the war. But the story does not end there! Louis not only survived to the end of the war, but after dealing with post-traumatic stress syndrome (although undiagnosed) found it in his heart to forgive his prison camp tormentors and traveled to personally convey his forgiveness to everyone of them--except one, nicknamed The Bird.

Takamasa Ishihara gives a superior performance portraying the sadistic prison camp guard, Mutsushiro Watanabe (a/k/a The Bird). The movie toned down the extreme sadism he showed to the prisoners under his control. The attempt at reconciliation between The Bird and Louis is a footnote at the end of the movie, but the magnitude of the gesture is far greater. Zamperini attempted to meet with Watanabe to convey his forgiveness, but was rebuffed. 

The movie has long periods where there is little action. How else can 47 days adrift in a raft be filmed? How much excitement really occurs except for an occasional shark attack and getting strafed by a Japanese fighter. The movie is gritty, dirty, real, and often difficult to watch.

RECOMMENDATION: See this movie! The book and the movie help me to understand why so many people of the Greatest Generation could not do what Louis Zamperini did and forgive the Japanese people for the travesties committed during World War II. The movie short changes the story a bit by not completing Louis Zamperini's tale about how he came a motivational speaker--but that is for additional research. This movie is NOT suitable for the pre-teen crowd.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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