Breaking Down Unbroken

Louis Zamperini WWII POW, the face of Unbroken

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Louis Zamperini WWII POW, the face of Unbroken

Alexa Westlake, Editor

A trouble-making child of Italian immigrants turned high school Olympic track star overcomes all odds. This World War II bombardier survives a plane crash followed by 47 days at sea on a life raft only to wash up in Japan and become a prisoner of war, tortured for two years. Sounds like a gut-wrenching story crafted by Hollywood? Think again. The true story of Louis Zamperini is not just one of triumph, but of true perseverance and will power.

“Unbroken,” the 2010 biography by Laura Hillenbrand, is the one book I would without conviction recommend to anyone and everyone. Hillenbrand worked with Zamperini to recount the best and worst of his life; not only is it beautifully written, but the story of Zamperini is one that should be told far and wide. The emotions and empathy brought forth made this one of the most captivating books I have ever read.

While the movie of the same name, which came out Christmas Day, is entertaining and the cinematography admirable, the movie spends too much time on World War II; it’s like the “Schindler’s List” of the Japanese POW camps. The best parts of the book are the touching stories from Zamperini’s childhood, which focus on  the power of faith in any situation. The movie focuses on the war, but I found that it was Zamperini’s life before and after the war that made his story so inspiring.

There are a mere five slides at the end of the movie that summarize his life after the war, reducing it to a triumphant and successful return home. But Zamperini’s life did not automatically get better after surviving the war. What’s not captured in Angelina Jolie’s cinematic adaptation is his struggle with alcohol, family and PTSD followed by his knack for overcoming situations that seem hopeless. Forgiveness is a main theme from the book that is  not as accentuated by the film. Indeed, Zamperini returned to Japan in order to forgive his captors.

Should you go see the movie? In short, yes. It’s entertaining and packed full of action and is a great way to spend 12 bucks. But does the movie do justice to the life of Louis Zamperini? Not even close. However, I think that with only two hours and 30 minutes, no movie ever could. This was an adequate adaptation, but nothing can compare to the book. Perhaps a mini series on Netflix or HBO would have been better suited for such a story. That none of the details that made his life even more impressive and inspiring would be left out.

Perhaps my expectations were so high for the movie because of how I came to know Zamperini. In 2012, Zamperini came and spoke to my parish to tell his unbelievable story. He had such an incredible personality and the way he told little anecdotes made the experience one I will remember for the rest of my life. The life of Louis Zamperini is one of tenacity and forgiveness, one that should never be forgotten. We should all strive to have the same determination and faith that he did.