Unbroken Movie Documents Fighting, Faith, Freedom

Update: Franklin Graham describes the faith of Louis Zamperini here.  Notably:

He found a Bible that had been issued by the air corps and began reading.

Seems some documented good came from the US military issuing Bibles during World War II.

Unbroken, the Laura Hillenbrand biography on Louis Zamperini (which made the 2012 CSAF Reading List), has been made into an Angelina Jolie-directed movie to be released on Christmas day.

A small controversy is brewing over the movie’s admitted generalization of “faith,” despite the importance of the Christian faith to Zamperini’s life story. Ultimately, this should be little surprise, given that the book Unbroken (reviewed here) similarly spent very little time on the topic — while Zamperini himself devoted a substantial portion of his autobiography, Devil at My Heels (reviewed here), to his conversion and faith experience.

Christianity Today columnist Alissa Wilkinson noted Unbroken seems to lack the “redemption” from its “Survival. Resilience. Redemption.” tagline (the same conclusion reached here about the book). Without knowing the actual story, one might think Zamperini’s inspiring story was one of self: 

The story of resilience and outlasting and will and determination is scored and shot, acted and directed and sometimes visually striking, and what it inspires you to do is hate your enemies so hard that you can prove you’re better by them by making it past the finish line.

Perhaps foreseeing the controversy, Zamperini’s son Luke previously wrote an article at Townhall saying the film “gets my dad’s faith right.” Zamperini passed away last summer and was reportedly pleased with the movie. While it would be interesting to know his thoughts on the role faith played in the movie, its likely he would be as gracious — yet as hopeful — as he was about Hillenbrand’s book in 2011:

‘Unbroken’ is Laura’s book, so all I could do was pray that she would somehow have the Gospel in it.

Zamperini likely considered the feature “Angelina’s movie.” Did he likewise pray that she would have the Gospel in it?

Zamperini had also said he was put off by “pressure tactics” from Christians who seemed to force the gospel “down people’s throats,” and “gave Christianity a bad name” in the process.  On the other hand, he had previously refused to “water down” his faith — and said that’s why his story hadn’t become a movie in the past few decades.

In Devil at My Heels, Zamperini’s conversion and life thereafter — including his eventual forgiveness of his wartime tormentors — was a substantial part of the book. In Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, it was included but reduced to a few pages. According to Wilkinson, in the movie version of Unbroken, the pinnacle experience of Zamperini’s life is relegated to post script title cards in the closing credits.

Despite the unavoidable elements of war and violence (and its depiction of Japanese soldiers, which has prompted calls of boycotts in Japan), Jolie said she produced Unbroken to be PG-13 so her children could watch it.

The story of Louis Zamperini is fascinating and inspiring, and Unbroken will likely be worth viewing, though those who hope to see Zamperini’s redemption will have to nod knowingly at the end of the movie — and then finish the rest of the story, either in Zamperini’s heartfelt and revealing autobiography, or in a same-day release from the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.

On Christmas day, the BGEA is releasing Captured by Grace, which aims to pick up where the movie Unbroken leaves off, giving Zamperini the opportunity to tell his story of faith, in his own words.

Unbroken is rated PG-13 and opens around the country Christmas day.

Also at the Christian Post.