I am not a film reviewer, but I am a fan of film in general and have been anxiously awaiting the release of the new movie Unbroken, which is the life story of someone I got to personally know, Louis Zamperini.
I interviewed Louis on four different occasions and also spent quite a bit of time with him. His memory and attention to detail were nothing short of astounding.
I loved the book this film is based on, by the same title, written by Laura Hillenbrand. So when I heard it was finally going to make it to the big screen, I was thrilled.
Let me start by saying I loved it.
Great attention was given to the details of Louis's story, from his rebellious childhood and early days in Torrance, California, to Olympic glory, and of course his great suffering in World War 2. Actor Jack O'Connell did an amazing job capturing the strength and commitment of this amazing man. I thought the whole cast was outstanding.
There are some powerful visual moments in Unbroken that I am sure will move the viewer as they moved me. At the end of the film, Louis returns home safely after two years in a Japanese POW camp, where he received the cruelest of treatment by Mutsuhiro Watanabe, also known as "The Bird." Preceding this, Louis had spent 47 days adrift at sea after his plane was shot down over the Pacific Ocean. This is all well documented.
Louis's life did not end there, of course. He returned home with severe PTSD and was a raging alcoholic. His life was spiraling downward, and at the urging of his newly converted wife, Cynthia, Louis agreed to attend an evangelistic event led by a young preacher from North Carolina, Billy Graham. Louis did go to that crusade and remembered how, when adrift at sea on that raft, he told God in a prayer that if, "He got me out of this, I will serve Him."
The Lord did get Louis out of it, and Louis responded to the invitation from Billy Graham to follow Jesus Christ. Louis Zamperini did just that and served God for the rest of his very long life. Louis died this year at age 97.
Louis told me personally that God instantly healed him of PTSD, and he put alcohol in his past. Filled with a new love for his enemies, Louis returned to Japan to forgive and share the gospel with the very guards who had so mistreated him in the POW camp.
Louis was never able to make contact with "The Bird." At the end of the film there is some footage of the real Louis Zamperini running in the Olympics in Japan, and some text on the screen that speaks of how, because of his faith in God, he was able to forgive those who so mistreated him.
I, for one, wish Louis's conversion was included in the film. But here is my question: Would you rather not have it included and alluded to, or included and misrepresented?
I'm reminded of the new film about the life of Moses, Exodus: Gods and Kings, directed by Ridley Scott. I think Scott is a brilliant director, but clearly, he gutted the story so badly, I felt as if I were watching another story altogether that featured the same names as the Bible story. For instance, in Exodus: Gods and Kings the Lord comes to Moses through a small boy instead of speaking through a burning bush as the Bible states. Instead of Moses going into the court of Pharaoh, performing miracles by the hand of God, we have what appear to be a series of calamities that naturally follow one another, initiated by some very large crocodiles that are nowhere to be found in the biblical account. The miracle of the parting of the Red Sea appears to be nothing more than a low tide. At the end of the film, it is Moses, not God, who writes the Ten Commandments.
I could go on, but my point is that the film distorted the biblical story and was a huge disappointment to me. In contrast, director Angelina Jolie just alludes to Louis's conversion, and hopefully will send the viewer wanting to see more.
So, for what it's worth, I endorse the film.
I am asked to endorse films quite regularly, and I usually decline. No one asked me to endorse Unbroken, but I have chosen to do so because I believe it is well worth seeing and supporting. As Christians, we can use this powerful film as a springboard to tell the rest of Zamperini's amazing life story and how Jesus Christ changed him from a man filled with hate to one filled with forgiveness.
Here is a link to an interview < http://www.harvest.org/media/louis-zamperini-interviews.html > that I did with Louis about his life.