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Unbroken, The Movie - A Review

Updated on February 10, 2015

Louis Zamperini and damaged plane, Superman

1st Lt Louis Zamperini, peers through a hole in his B-24D Liberator Superman made by a 20mm shell over Nauru, Apr 18 1943
1st Lt Louis Zamperini, peers through a hole in his B-24D Liberator Superman made by a 20mm shell over Nauru, Apr 18 1943 | Source
The kind of plane Louis Zamperini flew in, was a  Consolidated B-24 Liberator. (Maxwell B-24.)  From the 1940's.
The kind of plane Louis Zamperini flew in, was a Consolidated B-24 Liberator. (Maxwell B-24.) From the 1940's. | Source

The movie Unbroken - Based ona true story

The movie unbroken was one that caught my attention due to the incredible nature of the details that surrounded Louis Zamperini's life story. Angelina Jolie was an incredible director, though I wasn't sure what to expect at first from her in this type of movie. I was impressed throughout the movie, and wished I had the time to take more of my family with me to see it, though time was off the essence.

Each section of the story was done in great detail, and allowed for time to develop each important segment of Zamperini's life. It was able to get in the pertinent details for each part, and allowed for the distinct feelings that might naturally fall to each segment. It is hard to put into words, but I was very impressed. I haven't really known Jack O'Connell as an actor before, but he did a wonderful job in playing Louis Zamperini. The choices in roles was great for all parts, including Takamasa Ishihara as the Bird, or Watanabe. It was an excellent cast all around.

Unbroken Trailer - An Incredible Movie

Young Louis Zamperini - Unbroken

In the movie we see Zamperini in different parts of life. As a youth, as an older teenager, and as an adult in World War 2. In looking back to his younger years, we see a young boy that was brought up in a religious family though not too interested in religion. It even shows him in church being bored and uninterested in what was being said. However, the ideas of the importance placed on something far bigger than himself seemed to come back to revisit, later on during a huge time of crisis.

To give a fair spoiler alert, I am running through some of the details of the story in this article, just to be fair.

Louis was a troubled child, and didn't think too much of himself. He observed what was going on in the world around him, but didn't particularly seem to like being told what to do. So what ensued was often run-ins with the law, or with other people. He would get picked on some as coming from an Italian family, being called things like a "slimy WOP", and that sort of thing. So fights would ensue.

It wasn't strange for his family to struggle over what came from experiences like this, and be worried and frustrated for his future if he were to keep in the same vein in life. His mother prayed for many things, including him, and his brother also decided he needed some direction.

Since running was something he often did, though for the wrong reasons as in running from a police officer, perhaps it was this that caused his brother to encourage him in that. Louis wanted nothing of it, but his older and more respectable brother encouraged him to try for better in life, and not get stuck with what comes from making very poor choices in life. This seems to have made all the difference in his life. Perhaps even saving him later on.

Teen Aged Louis Zamperini - Growing Up

Louis Zamperini ended up trying out and running for the track team in school. He fought hard to become a better runner and did just that at his brothers coaxing. His family was so proud of him and encouraged him on.

He became so fast in his running, this landed him a spot in the Olympics one year. He was on cloud nine, and ended up doing well enough to get some serious recognition for his efforts and success. He had achieved some real good in life, despite the prior path he was on. We have limited insight into this time, but you can see he grew from those that encouraged him and from his own choices. Later, he went to school at the University of Southern California, and ended up in the United States Air Force after that.

One more thing that was really sweet though that I have to mention, is that there was a scene where he observed his mother making food, and also praying for him. These were important mental images for him a a young man growing him, and served him and even his friends during wartime, very well. It is something you will have to see in the movie, very sweet and an interesting thing to included by the writers. I loved it, as it was a very sweet thing to focus on, and something that rings true in real life.

Funafuti From Space

 Zamperini was deployed to the Pacific island of Funafuti as a bombardier on the Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber Super Man. In April 1943, during a bombing mission against the Japanese-held island of Nauru, the bomber was badly damaged in combat.
Zamperini was deployed to the Pacific island of Funafuti as a bombardier on the Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber Super Man. In April 1943, during a bombing mission against the Japanese-held island of Nauru, the bomber was badly damaged in combat. | Source

Louis Zamperini in World War 2 - Unbroken

We have the privilege of seeing some close calls in a mission Zamperini and his friends were on, and one couldn't help but wonder if that first scene was the one that made all the difference in this life, where the focus turned for the worse.

We see the inevitable happen however in another mission where they prepare to crash into the water, and Louis has many flashbacks. They crash, and three survive in life boats for forty seven days. Only three of the eleven flight crew survived the crash. Besides Zamperini, Russell Allen "Phil" Phillips and Francis "Mac" McNamara survived. After 33 days, McNamara passed away. It is an incredible journey. Since I had seen a documentary of this whole story prior, I thought I knew what to expect but it was done very well, and included so much in a short amount of time.

Surviving on the water, in the sun like those men did was no small thing. Later, they get ignored by a plane, and then after that get shot at and almost die again. It was a very fun line when one of them commented that if the Japanese were that bad at shooting them in that situation, then perhaps they would win the war!

They had to deal with sharks, and more death as well. When one of them died after 33 days, that had to really hit them hard. They put their friends body into the ocean. This movie included many twists and turns and kept you on the edge of your seat.

There was a point where there was a huge storm and you could tell that Zamperini thought this was "it". He prayed to God that if he would save him, he would do whatever God wanted him to do in life. God seemed to answer this prayer.

Nauru Island under attack by Liberator bombers of the Seventh Air Force.
Nauru Island under attack by Liberator bombers of the Seventh Air Force. | Source

Prisoner of War Camps in WW2 - Louis Zamperini's Experiences

When the two that were left become rescued from the ocean, they fall into a whole other set of terrors. Nearly starving or dealing with beatings or the cold, or imprisonment in dark wet "cells", the prisoners of war had a lot to face during this hard time.

It is said that its very likely that Louis Zamperini survived initially due to his success as an Olympian. He was the perfect person to make an example out of. I wanted to see the movie in part due to a comment I heard from a woman that saw it, that somewhat confused me. She said that she saw this movie, but that it portrayed it like Louis Zamperini was the one that got the worst of the treatment in those types of camps, and that it was a factually wrong idea. I was surprised to hear her say this and wanted to check it out. I think every single soldier in an army has a story. I also noticed that Zamperini wasn't the only one singled out at times in this movie, though the focus was on his experiences, sure.

For instance, there were other guys working on building a map or gathering information secretly. This was found out, and they were punished severely. So much so, one almost seems to lose his life in the scene where Zamperini is "taught respect" by every other prisoner of war, by being punched in the face.

Perhaps there is some license to show just the point of view in such a movie as this, and I think it makes sense. He did seem to be picked on by the "Bird", who was particularly harsh. However, you will see a scene after Zamperini got such special treatment from the Bird, and then went into the sleeping quarters. The other men there take one look at him and notice he had been given special treatment, and they knew immediately who had dished it out. This implies that others got that treatment as well.

One man even got his nails ripped out, or off, though thankfully they only show the after effects. This is another case where Zamperini didn't even receive the same kind of treatment as that. So I think the comment from the lady who saw the movie, was unfounded, and not taking all things into consideration.

There are some tough scenes to watch, but that Louis Zamperini had to dig very deep for strength he didn't even know he had. His past and flashbacks in life helped him, and likely so did God in an answer to his prayers.

A 1945 Picture of Sugamo Prison in Tokyo Japan


Airport in California Named after Louis Zamperini

The airport, one of the busiest general aviation airports in the state and once known as Torrance Municipal Airport, was renamed for local sports and war hero Louis Zamperini.  Now home of the Western Museum of Flight.
The airport, one of the busiest general aviation airports in the state and once known as Torrance Municipal Airport, was renamed for local sports and war hero Louis Zamperini. Now home of the Western Museum of Flight. | Source

Persevering Through The Toughest Trials - Zamperini in Unbroken

Louis Zamperini somehow made it through some of the most incredible situations. I found it interesting that we were shown a weaker Zamperini early on, one that would never have made it through such things based on his manner of thinking and behaving. He was encouraged with being better, choosing a better though often more difficult course.

He survived the war, and had a new set of struggles back at home that the movie doesn't go into that much detail, which is understandable for time's sake. Unbroken, does show some follow up on what happened later in Zamperini's life. He found God, or perhaps it was God that found him. He had suffered a lot of trauma and had post traumatic stress disorder. He had nightly nightmares, and struggled in his family life because of what he had gone through.

He was invited to a Billy Graham crusade during this time, and responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Things had seemed to come full circle. Louis Zamperini, even after the war and surviving, didn't really seek God out on his own. Things had to get a little bit worse on their own, before he realized what he needed, and deeper down probably really wanted. The peace that comes from the understanding of what God had given him and done for him. The peace that passes all understanding and forgiveness for his own errors in life, and healing as well. Healing from his nightly nightmares. He was given more peaceful sleep, I recall hearing in the documentary. He said he never had a nightmare again after turning to God.

Louis Zamperini also decided to do what he could to go back to Japan and visit with his captors. He wanted to speak to them and share with them. All met with him except for the Bird. The Bird had been in hiding due to his war crimes, and even after no longer being in hiding, didn't want to meet with Zamperini. However, I wonder if the story ever reached back to the Bird, and I have to think it did.

Louis also had the privilege of running one more time in the Olympics, with a torch in his hand, very late in life! It was beautiful and very inspiring to see! This man that died the same year the movie came out, was able to tell his story to this degree. To have the opportunity to have it made into a movie is all the more incredible! It was a stroke of luck to find him and meet him in time for this story to unfold and be shared with the world. It is likely there are so many others of course. I hope they all get to be told, passed down, written down. As each one dies, so much information dies with them.

I am thankful for people like Louis Zamperini who fought so hard for the things we take for granted. The movie was wonderful and I applaud the writers as well as everyone that made it a possibility! Angelina Jolie did an incredible job, and I think is a great producer for so many reasons. I can highly recommend this film, and want the rest of my family to see it. It is well worth the watch.

An Inside Look - Video About Unbroken, the Movie

Where Louis Zamperini Lived and Locations of Service and Imprisonment

Torrance California:
Torrance, CA, USA

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Where Louis Zamperini's family lived when he was in High School.

Olean New York:
Olean, NY 14760, USA

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Where Louis Zamperini Was born. January 26, 1917.

University Southern California:
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

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Zamperini was a student at University Southern California.

O‘ahu, Hawaii, USA

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Their plane crashed 850 miles south of Oahu, while conducting a search for a lost crew, due to mechanical difficulties.

Marshall Islands:
Marshall Islands

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This is where they were captured by the Japanese Navy and then put into camps.

Kwajalein Atoll:
Kwajalein Atoll, Kwajalein Atoll, RMI

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This is where they were were initially held for 42 days.

Ofuna, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture 247-0056, Japan

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Transferred to Ofuna, and later to Tokyo.

Omori Tokyo:
Omori Station, 1 Chome-6 Ōmorikita, Ōta-ku, Tōkyō-to 143-0016, Japan

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Another transfer to this location.

Naoetsu, Joetsu, Niigata Prefecture 943-0000, Japan

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Final prison location for Louis Zamperini until the end of the war.

Los Angeles:
Los Angeles, CA, USA

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Where Louis Zamperini died at 97 years old. He died from pneumonia, at home, July 2, 2014.

A Deeper Look Into the Life of Louis Zamperini

Unbroken, The Movie - Poll

Have you had the chance to see "Unbroken?"

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Final Thoughts and A Couple of Quotes

As much as I have shared about this movie, it may seem that I have told too much. I assure you, there are many parts that I have left out and that are worth seeing. The details go much deeper and it is far more interesting than I can relay here. Unbroken is a movie I would see again and can highly recommend. I am grateful to all that helped make this story known, and the movie a reality because it is so incredible and inspiring.

Below are a few of the quotes I found that I wanted to share from the movie and from Zamperini.

"The light will always follow darkness." From a scene inside the church when Zamperini was a boy.

"If you can take it, you can make it." Spoken from his brother, in encouragement to keep trying harder.

In the movie, Louis' brother shared a quote with him as he was parting on a train. "A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory."

This one is perhaps my favorite from Louis Zamperini is, "To persevere is important for everybody. Don't give up, don't give in. There's always an answer to everything."

Coldplay's Song, From the End of the Movie Unbroken called "Miracles." A great "must hear" song!

© 2015 Paula


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    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Silva, I have not read the book, though I can imagine that it had to be difficult to read, just as you described. It is a tough story, but that ends up shining with a very bright hope in the end. Yes, it was so tragic, yet inspiring. Thank you for your comment!

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 

      4 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      Thanks for the excellent review. I read the book and it was really really disturbing and difficult to get through. So tragic. What an inspiring story!

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      What a great movie to watch with the family, and I agree that it was truly inspiring. Yes, the Olympics is pretty impressive, but all the rest of the story simply blows me away. I didn't even write on this part, but the scene where he was offered a much easier life with good food, etc, that he turned down because he didn't want to engage in propaganda against his country, was simply remarkable. Then the severe punishment that came from that. Just one of the many scenes. Thank you for your comment, Shasta! I appreciate it.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      4 years ago from USA

      I saw this movie with my family and it was truly inspiring. Just being in the Olympics would be movie worthy by itself, and yet he went through so much much more!

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Good afternoon Mary, I am glad its playing in your town now. Its about done where I am, I think. I would highly recommend to anyone to see it on the big screen if possible. If not, seeing it in some form is highly recommended also.

      I hear you about saving your money for happy movies. Life can have enough seriousness, and even down parts about it. I almost didn't go and see this for the very fact that I thought it was such a "downer" movie. It is rough in patches, but overall this is a happy, overcoming all odds kind of movie. In that sense, it is a huge encouragement, a bright light almost! I am glad you stopped by and commented and ty for the votes.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      4 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for the great review on Unbroken. It is now playing in my town, and if I can, I will see it. I usually save my money for happy movies, but this one does sound like a great one to see.

      Voted this UP, etc.


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