Directed by Angelina Jolie, the film tells the story of Olympic runner Louis “Louie” Zamperini who spends 47 days adrift in the pacific aboard a small life raft after his bomber breaks down midflight and the crew is forced to ditch the plane. Louie is eventually picked up by the Japanese and spends the remainder of the war in various POW camps. Many critics felt the film didn’t live up to its full potential. Most believed Jolie bit off more than she could chew and the opportunity for one of the greatest war films of a generation was lost. Now again, I can’t speak to how accurately the movie represented the book but
I can say that I thought it was a stunning war film. Starting off with Zamperini in the midst of a dangerous bombing mission, flashbacks show us a troubled boy who rose from a seemingly meaningless life to one of glory and greatness eventually running in the 1936 Olympics in Germany. The film does a terrific job of showing how far someone can push themselves if they are determined to survive and succeed. The hardship suffered by Louie over the course of his time at sea and eventual internment is beyond motivational. The pain, hopelessness, and degradation he faces at the hands of his Japanese captors is unbearable to even conceive of. And yet throughout it all he remains positive and committed to making it home one day. His staunch determination is matched only by his love of others and his willingness to take the pain if it means keeping his co captives out of harm’s way. A rivalry develops between Louie and a young Japanese officer in charge of the camp nicknamed “The Bird” who reminds him of the Japanese Olympians he encountered years before. Now under very different circumstances, The Bird does everything in his power to break Zamperini’s spirit. Despite coming so close to death on multiple occasions Louie is able to persevere.
Near the start of the film, just after Louie gets on the train bound for the Olympics his older brother reminds him that a moment of pain is worth a lifetime of greatness. This ends up being central to the film, always popping back up in your mind as you witness the horrors encountered by both Louie and the other prisoners. In this way Louie’s running ends up being analogous to his experiences in that if you push yourself beyond what you thought capable, you can make it through anything. Overall, I found the film to be not only uplifting but inspirational in a way I haven’t encountered in some time. The critics can say what they will, but I think Unbroken will be considered one of the better war dramas of the 2010’s, no question.