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.