The true story of Louis Zamperini is one of the most incredible and inspirational stories of modern history. It deserves so much better than it has received in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken.
Zamperini was an Olympic runner who became a WWII war hero, got shot down over the ocean and survived in a raft for 47 days, was taken hostage by the Japanese once making way to land and tortured as a prisoner until the end of the war, came home to find himself a bitter drunk but turned a corner when befriending Billy Graham and joining him in crusades as an inspirational speaker, and eventually decided to show forgiveness by traveling to Japan to find the men that tortured him and forgive them in person.
Quite a life.
Yet, Unbroken seems content to merely show a series of events in Zamperini’s life with no real overarching theme or character development. Never discussed is the faith that made Zamperini so “unbreakable.” Not even the climactic moments when he forgives the Japanese, which seemed to be what tied all of his experiences together and was the evidences of his being “unbroken” in the book, are shown.
The film feels more like a string of unfortunate events that happened to one man rather than an actual story with plot and character. The character of Louis is never really fleshed out; never once do we truly get inside his head.
Though Unbroken has good intentions, this large-scale World War II film feels formulaic and clichéd rather than one of the most incredible true-life stories that could be told. It shrinks the life of Zamperini, instead making sure to hit all the right notes to be considered for prestigious awards. What many readers of the book will agree are the best parts of Zamperini’s story are simply left out, as Unbroken attempts to pull at the heartstrings with a number of “motivational catchphrases” rather than actual characters wrestling with real struggles.
© Matt Tory, 2014.