Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Unbroken in Theaters Now

After reading Unbroken this year, I was pretty excited to see the movie. It's just such an incredible story of a man who endured weeks adrift on a raft at sea only to end up being tortured in a Japanese POW camp during World War II. The book goes into so much more detail about the kind of man Louis Zamperini was and how that affected his outlook during his trials than a movie ever could, so whether you see the movie first or not, I highly recommend you also read the book.

As much as I like Angelina Jolie, I admit I was a bit worried about her directing this film. She's fairly new to directing, and she's a woman (*Gasp* Did I just say that?). I don't think I'm being biased to say that women generally have different viewpoints than men. We're wired differently with different interests and concerns, and I wasn't sure how that might translate to the condensed and adapted telling of a survival story. Granted, a woman wrote the biography and did a fantastic job.

When I saw the movie was rated only PG-13, I wondered even more. It's not that I necessarily wanted to see all the torture, but I felt that to be true to the book, the story warranted a stricter rating. After having seen the movie, I am conflicted about the rating it was given. I do feel like the hardships of the POW camp were downplayed (or perhaps it was just that the sheer amount of them described in the book couldn't make it into a 137-minute movie, thereby easing the intensity of the whole ordeal), but I also think the subject matter was intense enough to justify an R rating.

Bottom line, the movie is accurate but just doesn't convey how impressive this story really is. In that way, it is like a PG-13 version of the book. Whether that's due to directing or the medium the story is told in or the time constraints, I don't know. Where I think Angelina Jolie and the actors did a fine job is in bringing out the characters and the emotions of the story. Jack O'Connell is a great Louis Zamperini, and the story hones in on the key aspects of his character that got him through the war.

(SPOILER alert) Before the movie came out, I'd heard that it didn't portray Zamperini's faith enough. And his faith, especially at the end, is kind of what seals the deal on this book for many. It's that last punch that makes a believer like me giddy with emotion. But I think the movie did it just right. It foreshadowed it and then ended where it needed to at the end of his physical trials, leaving a footnote on a black screen to tell you about how his faith enabled him to survive and forgive after the war. I thought it actually made a pretty big impact like that.

If you want a story that's a celebration of life in the midst of some of the worst life has to offer, a true tale of courage and heart with a solid redemptive finale, take it from a fiction reader...fiction has nothing on this.

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