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Film illustrates healing power of Christ

Unbroken: Path to Redemption continues the true story of Louis Zamperini (Samuel Hunt) told in Unbroken, released in 2014, and based off the book by Lauren Hillenbrand. Directed by Harold Cronk, the follow up covers Louis’s struggles after the war and remarkable redemption.

The movie opens with a synopsis of the previous movie. The way it told Louis’s story interested me; it made a timeline with animations of newspaper headlines, but the pictures were action scenes from his life. I thought this was a resourceful way to start the movie off with action and still provide context.

As the news clippings show, the real life Mr. Zamperini received attention long before movies were made about him. Growing up, young Zamperini earned a reputation as a delinquent. His brother, Pete (Bobby Campo), forced him to run the mile for Torrance High. He hated running, right up until the starting gun fired.

Pete gave him a piece of advice that stuck with him the rest of life, “Isn’t a moment of pain worth a lifetime of glory?” Zamperini committed himself to running the mile, setting records in high school, at USC, and making the 1936 Olympic team.

Louis Zamperini (Samuel Hunt) struggles with PTSD and alcoholism throughout the film as he readjusts to civilian life after WWII.

Before he finished his degree at USC (which later affected him), Mr. Zamperini joined the war against Japan in the US Army Air Corps. His life changed again on May 27, 1943 when his B-24 crashed in the open ocean. Louis survived the crash, but sunk 80 feet, tangled in wires, before blacking out, never expecting to regain consciousness. Just then, the wires untangled and he floated back up.

Bobbing in the Pacific Ocean for 46 days and nights, Mr. Zamperini prayed. He made a deal with God, promising to serve him if God saved him.

Mr. Zamperini was captured by the Japanese, starting an over two year imprisonment. Guarding prisoners was considered a dishonor in Japan, and the job was given those who failed officer school. One of these embittered guards, named “The Bird,” (David Sakurai) made it a priority to beat Mr. Zamperini daily.

Upon his release, Mr. Zamperini made his way back to Torrance, but the second movie opens up on a different scene in 1955. Louis travels to Sugamo Prison, where his former guards are kept. He asks where “The Bird” is, leaving the prisoners wondering the reason why Louis came.

The next we see of Louis Zamperini is in front of his parent’s house. I feel Samuel Hunt played Zamperini’s character masterfully from the beginning. In front of his family, Louis smiles, cracks jokes, and convinces his parents he received no ill-treatment.

Alone, however, Zamperini’s avoidance of Japanese food and nightly drinking show that he might still be imprisoned. Pete, a sailor during the war, expresses this theme to his brother in the opening scene. He says, “They say that it’s over, but any second I just feel like this klaxon alarm is gonna go off and its man your battle stations. Maybe the war is not over just because they say it is.”

The second main character, Cynthia Applewood (Merritt Patterson), is introduced when Louis is given a three-week vacation to Miami. After meeting on the beach, they quickly fall in love.

After Louis’s proposal and his and Cynthia’s wedding, the movie slows down. Zamperini refuses to apply for a job “digging ditches” and his $10,000 dollar life insurance check pays only enough for a small apartment. Louis is plagued by graphic nightmares of “The Bird” every night, despite heavy drinking.

While certainly heavy on emotional tension, the majority of the movie lacks action or a complicated plot. I think this is the weakest aspect of many faith-based films. However, I preferred the deep, meaningful story in Unbroken to the excessive violence in many action films.

In the film, Billy Graham hosts a Revival Meeting in Los Angeles.

Despite having a new baby, Louis and Cynthia’s relationship continues to decline. Cynthia’s outlook changes, however when her neighbor takes her to a Billy Graham revival meeting in L.A. and she accepts Christ. Rather than to continue pursuing a divorce, Cynthia’s goal becomes show her husband the joy she has found.

At this point, I feel like the film excels where other faith-based films stagnate. Rather than showing a montage of him and his wife crying together, the writers relate the response to Billy Graham’s message to his track experience and his time on the raft, just like Mr. Zamperini’s autobiography did. Following the Mr. Zamperini’s actual life made the movie much more believable and enjoyable.

I thought Unbroken: Path to Redemption was an excellent rendition of Louis’s life. Having read Louis Zamperini’s autobiography before watching the movie, I did not expect the film to capture his struggle as accurately as it did. The expert use of special effects, especially in Louis’s nightmares, also surprised me, as this is something one does not usually see in faith-based films. All in all, I would watch this movie again. 

Unbroken: Path to Redemption is playing in theaters nationwide.

Andrew Rieker also contributed to this article.

4.1 / 5 Reviewer
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