US Catholic Faith in Real Life

"Unbroken" tells story of faith, forgiveness

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Directed by Angelina Jolie (Universal, 2014)

Many films have been inspired by World War II, and it’s no question Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken can be added to the list of greats. But unlike most war films rated R for graphic content, Unbroken (rated PG-13) is a movie appropriate for both younger and older audiences.

Unbroken, adapted from the novel of the same title, tells the real-life story of Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), an American Olympian and World War II veteran. Despite his knack for getting into trouble as a boy, Zamperini grows up to be a talented runner and qualifies for the 1936 Olympics in Germany. He later enlists in the United States Army Air Forces in 1941. It is his time in the military where most of the story takes place. After his plane crashes in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, he and other members of his unit are left adrift at sea on a raft. Forty-seven days go by until he is discovered by the Japanese Navy and becomes a Japanese prisoner of war for two years.

The film depicts Zamperini’s gruesome battle for survival at sea and as a prisoner of war. Jolie exquisitely captures the human aspect of his story, allowing viewers feel his pain during his journey. The use of flashbacks enhance the storytelling process by breaking up intense scenes with memories of running alongside his brother, and Zamperini's progression from high school athlete to Olympian.

Film critics and fans of the book, however, argue that Zamperini’s faith, which was strongly incorporated into the novel, was not adequately incorporated into the film. Jolie defended the use of a universal religious message, stating it was what Zamperini wanted, as a universal message would reach more people.

“[Zamperini] said this is about reaching everyone, this should speak to everyone, and we were very clear on his parents’ faith, they being Catholic. … We’re very clear on him praying,” she told reporters in December. “If you were looking for symbolism and miracles in the film, you will see them.”

And this rings true. Unbroken tells a universal story of struggle, faith, and forgiveness that will linger in the hearts and minds of Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

This is a web-only review.