MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
It might seem an easy thing to say that a faith-based movie based on the last third of Laura Hillenbrands’s 2010 book about the life of Louis Zamperini (played in this film by Samuel Hunt) is a bit unnecessary, since Angelina Jolie’s 2014 film version described these events in its postscript.
Except that I think that I asked for this film. In my 2015 review of Unbroken, I wrote “Louis Zamperini’s faith story is really about how God never let go of him through it all; somehow the filmmakers missed the point.” Then I added: “Unbroken is finally undone by an incredible story that simply cannot be depicted in just two hours of film.”
I asked for this.
If you are unfamiliar with the first film, you really should watch it before you see this sequel. Unbroken: Path to Redemption even uses footage from that movie in its first minutes to bring the audience up to speed. That film told the incredible story of Louis Zamperini and his journey of endurance (including running in the 1939 Berlin Olympics, joining the Air Force during World War II, surviving a plane crash in the Pacific Ocean, then lost at sea for weeks, and placed in an oppressive Japanese prison camp). It’s quite a tale.
Unbroken: Path to Redemption picks up his story after the war and is primarily about how his scars from his wartime trauma led to horrifying bouts of PTSD and alcoholism. The film also shows the support he received from his wife Cynthia (Patterson) and his brother Pete (Bobby Campo), and his conversion during a Billy Graham revival and its aftermath.
Unbroken: Path to Redemption is blessed with a screenplay by Richard Friedenberg that is less heavy-handed than most Pureflix productions (with some creative CGI nightmare sequences). The acting is fine and there are moments of gentle humor (Christian humor is rarely laugh-out-loud funny), so it can be considered a step in the right direction for Christian films.
I just wish that there was more of Jesus in this movie, specifically when Louis makes his faith decision at a Billy Graham tent meeting (the evangelist is played by Graham’s grandson William Graham). I cannot imagine a non-believer understanding just what happens in this scene other than God taking hold of Zamperini’s life and making everything work out fine. It’s great when it happens, but skeptics know that things don’t always turn out positive, even with the faithful.
Christians will enjoy this movie but most everyone else will likely find it superfluous or simplistic. Louis Zamperini’s life was neither. Perhaps his story was just too big to reduce to even two movies. Fortunately, you can still read Hillenbrand’s book, Zamperini’s 2003 book Devil at My Heels and his 2014 book Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In. Louis (like so many veterans of war) realized that his life was spared while others perished and strove to make his life count for something, living to the age of 97, involved in acts of forgiveness and encouragement to others. That’s a life worth emulating.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Four halos: The final chapters of an amazing life and how faith in Christ empowers forgiveness and grace.
Two pitchforks: For scenes of PTSD that hint of torture and deprivation; much drinking; mild racist remarks.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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