movie review: unbroken

New Unbroken Poster“If I can take it, I can make it.” – Louis Zamperini, Unbroken

I’m sitting here at the kitchen table, scratching my head, and still not knowing what to say about Unbroken, more than twelve hours after I saw it.  I ended up seeing it by myself, by the way, because two of my younger siblings weren’t allowed to see it and my older sister didn’t want to see it without ClearPlay.  (I’m glad I saw it in the theater because it’s so much more real that way, but I think I’ll be seeing it with ClearPlay from now on.  Heh… heh… [Click here to read more about ClearPlay.])

Okay, I’ll just go for it.  Excuse the mess that is sure to follow.  ; )

The Story

“After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he’s caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.” (From IMDb)

To me, that just barely describes it.

Louis ;(I first heard about Louis when everybody else heard about him – back in 2010 when Laura Hillenbrand released her biography of his life.  I didn’t think it’d be interesting and assumed it was just another boring biography about another WWII veteran.  (“Shame, shame, shame!”)  I kept hearing about it, but kept putting it off, thinking I might get to it sometime.  Then the trailer for the movie came out.  I instantly put it on hold at my library.  I devoured the book in less than a week – no easy feat, as it’s almost five hundred pages and I read it during a school week – and then watched the trailer again.  And cried.

You see, this isn’t “just another boring biography about another WWII veteran.”  For one, we should never assume that each veteran’s story is the same.  Every person is unique, just like their story.  Louie’s story is about as unique as you can get.  From Torrance, California to a POW camp in Japan, the man went though so much – and lived to tell about it!  More than that, Louie found God after the war and forgave all of his captors.  To me, that’s amazing.  The tagline of the film is “Survival. Resilience. Redemption.”  I think that sums it up very well.

The Cast and Characters

(Trying to refrain from saying “characters” in the following paragraphs because they’re NOT characters – they’re real people.  If I slip up, excuse my pardon.)

unbroken-01_612x381Louie goes first.  Obviously.  He’s such a deep person.  He started out as a stereotypical troublemaker, and changed into an amazing man full of tenacity and resilience and strength.  I know I wouldn’t be able to go through all of the things he went through – training for the Olympics, being a bombardier on a B-24, floating on a raft with no food or water for forty-seven days, only to be “rescued” by the Japanese and thrown in not one but TWO prisoner of war camps (where the POWs were hidden), and then truly rescued after WWII ended… and suffering from PTSD until he finally found peace through Jesus and was able to forgive.  He’s a true hero.  He’s my hero.

Unbroken13Jack O’Connell is now one of my favorite actors.  If he doesn’t get an Academy Award (along with Sebastian Stan for Captain America: The Winter Soldier), I’ll probably think seriously about suing.  Every little mannerism, every emotion – it all was amazing.  If I could have stepped through the screen and given him a hug, I would’ve.  It didn’t even seem like acting.  As I watched the movie, I found myself wondering how Jack recovered from all of the beatings because they must have actually been beating him up.  That, or he’s an amazing actor.  Either way, I’m going to be watching him in the future.

e72e3ae01e042fd69a72acc4f4e733ffRussell Allen “Phil” Phillips goes next because, in my opinion, he’s the second main character.  And, if I may be so bold, almost the true hero of Louie’s life.  Without his steady influence, I don’t think Louie would have ever become a Christian.  Phil is the pilot of the aircrew that Louie joins, and from then on – to the rest of their lives – they’re best friends.  In fact, one of my favorite lines in the book (that was also in the movie) is Phil telling Louie after they were two of the three men who survived the crash in the Pacific, “I’m glad it was you.”  (To which Louie jokingly replies, “I’m glad it was me, too.”)  Their relationship is so unique and special – closer than brothers, trusting the other with everything from the moment the plane hit the water.  Another thing that I love about him was that he was always so calm, even in the cockpit during their missions.  Phil was a Christian before he met Louie, and I believe that is was his Christian witness that eventually influenced Louie to later become a Christian.  To me, that’s what makes a true hero.  (Spoiler Alert!  A side note about Phil in the movie – I was absolutely certain that Angie and the preproduction team would condense the story and the two prison camps that Louie was in would be mashed into one and Phil would be in the same camp as Louie.  Wrong on both accounts.  When Phil and Louie were split up after the raft scene, my soul was crushed.  End Spoiler Alert)

Unbroken11Domhnall Gleeson, who played Phil, was fantastic.  He did his research on Phil, and he completely blew me away.  I sometimes get a little nervous about book-to-film adaptions because I wonder if the directors, screenwriters, actors, etc will “do a good job” with the characters that I love.  I was especially anxious about Phil (and all of the people in Louie’s story) because they’re real people.  He had such a deep friendship with Louie.  I couldn’t believe how spot-on Domhnall got it right.  In fact, the two times I all-out cried were scenes with Phil and Louie.  He was exactly the way I pictured Phil, and he made me love Phil even more, after watching everything he and Louie went through on the big screen.

The BirdMutsushiro Watanabe “The Bird” is the antagonist in Louie’s story… and I’ve never seen worse.  From the moment Louie enters his prison camp, he singles Louie out and beats him every day.  But he’s more twisted than that.  He often apologizes to Louie after beating him… then continues to hit him with his bamboo stick, sometimes even tossing it aside to use his fists.  He demands honor and is the most authoritative officer in the prison camp, even though he’s not the highest-ranking.  He’s sadistic and evil.  I still can’t believe that Louie forgave him in the end… and I also can’t believe that the US granted him amnesty a few years after the war in an effort to make peace with Japan.  Ugh.  Anyway, that’s just another reason Louie is my hero.

Unbroken-largeTakamasa Ishihara – or, as he’s better known, Miyavi – is a rockstar in Japan.  He’s used to crowds falling in love with him and being in awe of him, which is why Angelina Jolie cast him as The Bird.  Unbroken is his acting debut and, if I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought he was a famous actor.  But he’s not.  He had to learn English to be in the movie.  He connected with The Bird so much that, after beating Jack one day, he started sobbing and threw up.  I’m having a hard time saying good things about him because of my strong dislike of the person he played, but he was fantastic.

f7d5f0e8306eb0edf7ffb18dd8e5cef5Next is Pete Zamperini, Louie’s older brother. Without him, Louie wouldn’t have started running. Pete was a runner first, and saw the potential in Louie as Louie ran away from the police. He edged him on – sometimes even calling him names – and wouldn’t give up on him. One of my favorite lines in the movie was when Louie was a young boy, tried from training. Pete wouldn’t stop pushing him, and Louie thought he had reached his breaking point. He didn’t think he could do any better. “I’m nothing, Pete. Just let me be nothing.” To which Pete replied with a firm, “No. If you can take it, you can make it.” (Both lines were echoed in the movie… bringing me to tears.) Alex Russell was great as Pete, and I wouldn’t have changed the casting at all.

FitzgeraldJohn Fitzgerald is my next favorite person in Louie’s story.  He’s the highest-ranking POW at the prison camp, and he makes sure that his men are treated as well as can be expected.  He’s given a slightly larger part because someone in the development process decided that a lot of Louie’s friends in the prison camp should be mashed into one – Fitzgerald – which makes him pretty deep and awesome.  I missed Harris and Garrett and Wade and Tinker (who had a few lines but not as big a role in the movie as he did in Louie’s life), but I understood why they were taken out.  (Although you did see a guy tracing a map – who got beat up after it was found – and I smiled to myself, knowing it was Harris.)  I’ve seen Garrett Hedlund in a movie before – he was Murtagh in Eragon, one of my favorite characters in the Inheritance Cycle (muahahaha) – and he did such a great job as Fitzgerald.  He was strong and deep and I love him.

Honorable mentions: Finn Wittrock as Francis “Mac” McNamara – I never sympathized with him more than I did after watching the film.  C.J. Valleroy as Young Louie and John D’Leo as Young Pete – Both were fantastic and connected with their characters.

Objectionable Content

Unbroken10This movie is intense, to say the least.  Definitely not for the faint of heart.  It contains numerous scenes of war-time fighting, scenes where POWs – especially Louie – are beat up, a scene where Louie is punched repeatedly in the face by all two hundred POWs, and close-ups of bloody injuries.  It also contains several “bad words,” all of which are stated in the PluggedIn review.  There’s also a male nudity scene (rear only), but girls can close their eyes and not miss anything.  Louie drinks alcohol as a boy.

Bottom Line

d6968c49117a18e85be3a6bcc22af902To quote the PluggedIn review, Unbroken is “hard to watch but easy to praise.”  Everything that Louie went through makes the end of the story – the fact that he forgave his captors for everything they did to him – so much more inspiring.  If Louie can make it through all of the trials he was forced to endure, then find redemption and the ability to forgive, can’t we forgive those who have done so much less to us – including our parents, siblings, and friends?  That’s what this movie should awaken in the hearts of all who see it – the power to forgive those who have wronged us.

My recommendation: Go see the movie, then read the book, then take a deeper look into Louie’s life through the various documentaries about his life and the two books he wrote.



16 thoughts on “movie review: unbroken

  1. Pingback: ten short movie reviews. | inklings press

  2. Excellent review! I also read the book in a week’s time.

    The only problem I had with the film (aside from the unnecessary nudity) was one scene with Phil. Angie and the writers did a great job on his character until he started talking about living this life and then waking up and you’re with the angels. It…I don’t know. Phil would never have said anything so sappy. It just felt…out of character. But that’s it. They made up for it when the bit beforehand when he’s praying. “Did He say anything?” Yeah, He says my bombardier’s an idiot”. I couldn’t stop giggling. It was so very Phil.

    I, too, grinned when that one fellow was discovered for tracing the map. Cause…Harris!

    Pete was amazing. After reading Unbroken and seeing the film, I decided to buy Louis’s book “Devil at my Heels”, which I am reading currently. Louis mentions in it, how Pete was also a runner — a fact I must have skimmed over while reading Unbroken — and that he pretty much gave up any future he had in that area, when he decided to help Louis and stick by him and coach him nonstop. Reading that, made me love his brother even more.

    Miyavi was incredible!!! I hated him. So the guy did a wonderful job. I was highly impressed. My sister who’s not read the book mentioned how horrible the Bird was. I just blinked at her and stated “you’ve obviously not read the book”. Seriously….they went so light on it. Which is good. It couldn’t be too harsh and cruel or it’d be just too hard to watch.

    Did you notice the scenes missing from the film which were in the trailer? I want an extended version.

    After a lot of thought and seeing interviews and the like I’ve come to the conclusion that poor phil had no editing to his body. So when he took off his shirt–he really did lose that much weight. And that makes me heart ache. Because that was probably nothing to what the real Phil lost. 😥 I like Phil. In case you can’t tell. I don’t agree with your statement on Louis not coming to Christ without Phil, but there’s no doubt he made a huge impact on his life.

    And this comment just got completely out of hand. I apologize.

    God bless!


      Ugh, that scene kinda weirded me out. The entire time, I was just like, “No. Phil… no.” HAHAHA, YES. The scene before was Quite Accurate. 🙂

      Pete!!! I’m reading “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In” right now – so good! And then I’m gonna read “Devil at My Heels.” That’s so awesome! Pete kinda faded into the background after Louie, which was fantastic. I love him so much!

      HE WAS!!!! Ugh, he was SO much worse in real life. SO. MUCH. WORSE. Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.

      I DID!!!! Like the one of Louie kissing that girl especially. I DEMAND AN EXTENDED EDITION. NOW.

      Poor guy!!! I know. It was so hard to watch it knowing that Angie had watered everything down – knowing that what Louie and Phil went through in real life was so, so much worse. 😥 URMAGURSH, YES. Phil is my favorite. He’s the reason Louie got saved. Heehee, that was probably a little strong – but Phil definitely had a HUGE influence on Louie. Love him to death. 🙂

      Don’t apologize! I love long comments. 🙂

      • Yeah…Long comments are pretty epic, if I may so myself…

        Oh good, you agree. OKAY! question!! My friend and I have been trying to figure this out since we both saw it on Christmas. I didn’t really catch it, but my friend Jack said she noticed one of the characters doing the catholic cross after praying. She thought it was Phil, to which I freaked and have not been okay since. We’re both hoping beyond anything it was Louis in the boat who did it, which would make perfect sense since he grew up in a Catholic house. But we’re not sure. Jack says, in thinking back, she wondered if it was after Phil prayed. I about hit her for the idea. Anyway….do you remember such a scene? If so, who did it??? I’ve been aching to see the film again, for many reasons–settling this problem being at the top.

        Pete is so amazing. I love him. I want to read that one next!! Devil at my heels is sooooo good. I love Louis’s writing style. His sense of humor just shines through. It’s wonderful.

        So. Much. Worse. I mean…if I hadn’t read the book before seeing the movie–the heartbreaking expression Louis gives when seeing the Bird at Naoetsu wouldn’t have been as…heartbreaking. Because how can it? He was so horrible in real life. Have you seen the interview with him the Bird? It’s on youtube. Or…at least part of it. From the 80’s, or whenever that was. It’s…..I don’t know what to make of it. I always loved watching interviews with Louis because *it’s really him*! Same kind of emotion when you see the Bird in real life. It’s just so…I don’t know. It’s like. I don’t hate him. I pity him. Hugely. You can see the bitterness. Anyway, if you haven’t, you should check out that interview. It’s quite fascinating.

        Yes!! That one!! When I saw the trailer I’d thought it might be Cynthia, but then I saw the trailer again and he’s wearing his Torrence running suit. Soooo….definitely not Cynthia. 😀 The other noticeable missing scene was of them taking that photo outside their house before Louis went to war. I need that 4 hour version they’ve talked about having before cutting scenes.

        PHIIIIILLLLL!!!!!!! Ugh. Phil hurts me. I love him, too. And yeah. I know what you mean. He certain impacted him greatly. I wish he’d have talked about it…I wish I knew what happened to him between the point of separation from Louis to the end of the war. Apparently he never talked about the war ever…and some of his kids and stuff didn’t even know *half* of what happened until Louis’s and Laura’s books came out.

        I’d apologize for totally fangirling….no….it seems weird to call it fangirlling since…they were real. So…whatever you want to call it. I’d apologize for it, but….Hey. Louis. Phil. They deserve it.

        P.S. I was cracking eggs this morning and about cried cause I, of course, think of Louis now when I crack eggs…..Thanks Jack O’Connell for your epic impersonation….

        • They are! 😀

          Hmmmm…. It seeeems like it might’ve been Phil who did it, which is weird because he’s a Christian and not Catholic. If Louie did it, that would make sense. HMM. I MUST SEE IT AGAIN. 😀

          PETE IS FANTASTIC!!! And the book is so good! I’m not very far into it, but it’s really funny so far. I love how Louie glosses over everything he went through like it’s no big deal. He’s so humble – I love it!!! 🙂

          UGH, I KNOW. I maaaade my siblings read the book before seeing the movie, and my dad ended up not letting them watch it (even though it wasn’t as bad as the book). UGH, THAT WAS THE ABSOLUTE WORST. I NEARLY DIED. I started crying then again, too. His pitiful little half-faint was just soooo heartbreaking. 😥 WHOA. I haven’t seen that… don’t know if I want to, though. : /

          AHHHHHH. Drives me nuts that they tease us with shots like that and then don’t. include. them. 😦 Oh, well. I KNOWWWWWW. I need a four-hour version, too. 😀

          PHIL IS THE BEST, AMEN AND AMEN. I know… it’s really interesting how they both dealt with it differently. Phil kept it bottled up inside, but he was able to deal with it MUCH better than Louie because he had God’s strength to draw from. Interesting to think about.

          I know. The struggle is real. 😛 They totally deserve it. 🙂

          PS: UGHHHHHHH. I didn’t even make that connection. Now I’ll never be able to crack eggs without thinking of him again. Thanks, Jack. (That scene on the boat made me cry. Especially when he did it again when Mac was dying…. UGHHHHHH.)

  3. Nice review and I guess now I want to watch the movie. I kind of did before, but now I want to. It sounds good. And….darn it I forgot his name…the guy that plays Fitzgerald is a very good actor! I’ve seen him on a couple of other movies, so i’m not surprised he did a good job. Well, another movie added to my list then! *jots down “unbroken”*

  4. Oh my word. Great review and I am DYING to see it. I was pretty sure they’d do good portraying it all, but still very nervous that they would mess something up…it’s wonderful to know they did as good as you describe and I will be making a trip to the theater very, VERY soon. (Don’t worry. I will text you.;))

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