Christian Living


Unbroken: Movie Review

Star Rating

Movie Info


PG-13 (for war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language)


Biography, Drama, Sports, War


December 25, 2014


Jack O'Connell, Finn Wittrock, Garrett Hedlund, Domhall Gleeson, Miyavi, Jai Courtney, Alex Russell, C.J. Valleroy


Angelina Jolie


Universal Pictures

More on this movie at IMDb.com

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Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

As 19-year-old Louis Zamperini was preparing to compete at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics, his older brother Pete pulled him aside and advised, “A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.”

Little did Louis know but a simple quip of wisdom from his brother would chart the course for the remainder of his life. Just a few short years later, Zamperini would suffer through several years of wartime atrocities including time spent in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

Truly an American hero, Zamperini is the subject of Angelina Jolie’s highly anticipated new movie, Unbroken, that opens nationwide in theaters this week.

Zamperini’s remarkable life story had been in development for nearly 60 years with the late Tony Curtis originally attached in the lead role. It was only after the phenomenal success of Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 New York Times Bestseller and Jolie’s passionate interest in the story that eventually got the movie made.

Sadly, the real-life Louis Zamperini passed away in July at age 97, just months shy of seeing his life story viewed by millions on the big screen.


Louis Zamperini’s life was built on speed. From a troubled early life that found him smoking at age five, his zealous passion for all things fast eventually led him to the sport of running. His talent and tenacity took him all the way to the 1936 Olympics where he actually shook hands with Adolph Hitler. A few years later, feeling a duty to defend his country, Zamperini became a World War II bombardier, flying several combat missions in the South Pacific.  His final mission became a fatal one as he and his crewmates’ B-24 was shot down by enemy fire. Only three survived including Zamperini. He spent the next 47 days on a life raft with his emaciating friends seemingly destined for death. Captured by the Japanese, Zamperini spent the next two years in several prison camps being tortured to within inches of death. Only his indomitable will and courage kept him alive.


There is a lot to like about Jolie’s cinematic adaptation of Unbroken. In recreating Zamperini’s harrowing journey of suffering, torture, and ultimate humiliation, the Oscar-winning actress turned director has delivered an intimate, character-driven movie, highlighted by the superb performance of emerging actor Jack O’Connell (300: Rise of an Empire) as Zamperini.

Unbroken is visually spectacular. From the opening sequence of a joltingly chaotic aerial World War II fight scene aboard a B-24 bomber to an emotionally jarring torture scene in the movie’s final minutes, Jolie and Director of Cinematography Roger Deakins deliver beautiful imagery in the rich, earthen tones of that era.

The interplay between Zamperini (O’Connell) and the exquisitely sadistic prison guard “The Bird” (Miyavi, Japanese rock star) is disturbing and harsh. One can’t take their eyes off the screen whenever the baby-faced Bird turns his sweet but hateful gaze upon Zamperini. 

Audiences should be warned that the torture scenes in Unbroken while powerful and menacing are not for the faint of heart. They will cause you to squirm and look away at times. However, they are a poignant reminder of what Zamperini had to overcome to eventually extend forgiveness to his captors (In real life, he actually went back to Japan many years later to meet with the guards who so savagely beat him.)

Beyond these intense sequences of brutality and war violence, Unbroken also contains a brief dose of mild profanity and partial rear nudity.

While Jolie does an admirable job of telling Zamperini’s unbelievable story of sheer grit and determination to survive, she falls short in documenting his greatest triumph: his post-war conversion to Christ. To her credit, Jolie does feature a fair dose of religious imagery that includes a childhood church service, crying out to God on the life raft, and the use of symbolic lighting to illustrate God’s hand upon his life. Jolie recently defended her decision to soften the movie’s faith elements by saying that Zamperini personally requested making his faith “universal” for everyone. His life-changing conversion to Christ does get a mention in the movie’s closing tag cards.


Well acted by a mostly unknown cast, Unbroken is undeniably an inspiring true story that is being delivered at just the right time as America desperately searches for true heroes. Louis Zamperini was an American patriot who stood for all that is right with the United States. He believed in service and sacrifice. His life illustrated triumph over tragedy. And most importantly, he truly personified what his brother told him, “A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.”

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