Book (and Film) Review: Unbroken

novel, Unbroken, World War 2, WWII, nonfiction, Pacific, Book copyright Laura Hillenbrand
Book copyright Laura Hillenbrand

Louis Zamperini is a bit of a troublemaker. Okay, he’s quite the troublemaker. Growing up in Torrance, California in the home of a loving Italian family, Zamperini quickly gains a reputation for stealing, fighting, and general mischief making. It takes the intervention of his brother, Pete, to set him straight, which means running the course of the local track team. Over time, Zamperini grows to be so fast, he eventually qualifies for the olympics, which are held in Nazi Germany. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he joins the air force to fight this same country’s ally — the ruthless Japanese Imperial army. The following years of his life are filled with violence and tragedy, desperation and trauma, and finally — through his faith in God — redemption and forgiveness.

Laura Hillenbrand is a phenomenal writer and proves it with her fantastic story, Unbroken. It is a story of one of the most amazing heroes of the United States. Zamperini’s story is endlessly fascinating, hilarious, heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, suspenseful, and inspiring. It’s one of the best stories I’ve ever read, no joke. It is nonfiction that reads like fiction and will make your stomach turn during the worst parts because all of this actually happened.

Angelina Jolie’s film rendition of the book, however, was so underwhelming it was almost disrespectful. It was like someone in her crew read the Spark Notes version of the book and summarized all the main events in the film. Most of the actors were not great. The scenes were cheesy. Phil’s portrayal was awful. The story didn’t feel cohesive at all. They left out monumental things in his life — (spoilers) like when he shook hands with Hitler, the occasional kindness of the Japanese soldiers after his capture, or meeting Billy Graham. The dialogue was not impressive. The actor that portrayed Mutsuhiro Watanabe’s character was downright laughable. They also could have benefited from a guide to Christianity (i.e. there is a scene that is offensive where Phil talks about death and angels). I don’t recommend this movie at all. Read the book, get his true story in the most respectful format.

Laura Hillenbrand is also the author of the book Seabiscuit, which was also translated into film. The book was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the Book Sense Nonfiction Book of the Year Award and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award. She and actor Gary Sinise are the co-founders of Operation International Children.

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1 Comment

  1. I hate when that happens to the movie adaptation, it seems so disrepectful to the book. Especially so when the book is about the life pox a real person, or has a complex plot structure like Queen of The Damned by Anne Rice does. They take out an entire character, and totally change the end to hammer in the damsel in distress bit for one of the female characters. And much as I enjoyed THAT movie, I hated some things about it. Taking out a majorly important character is one of those things that makes me… we’ll say testy with the screen writers. There’s very little excuse for such sweeping and drastic changes/inaccuracies ever in my book. Queen of The Damned was interesting enough without the creative butchering, and that goes double for something true. Why people feel the need to apter things that way I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

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