I just watched the movie “Unbroken,” which surprisingly is not about Cleveland’s record of futility (fifty years this week!). When I left the theater I learned that the University of Michigan had hired a new football coach. Michigan’s AD announced that “our guy came home.” Lebron did the same thing this summer. So this should work out well.

A few thoughts on the movie:

  1. Excellent story telling that sticks pretty close to the book. It condenses material, as all movies do, but this one made the book come alive in my mind. I’m glad I saw it.
  1. The movie does a good job covering what it includes, but it ends prematurely. It stops at war’s end, leaving out Louie’s struggle to assimilate back into society, his alcoholism, and most important, his conversion at a Billy Graham Crusade. An endnote said that Louie was “motivated by his faith” to return to Japan and forgive his captors rather than seek revenge. But none of that was included in the movie itself.
  1. This omission reduces “Unbroken” to a compelling story of mere common grace. The movie demonstrates what the indomitable human spirit is capable of. This makes a terrific Hollywood story, and even better idol. The climax of the movie showed Louie staggering beneath the weight of a cross beam. But this Christ figure did not show compassion and forgiveness. How could he? Louie didn’t know Jesus yet. Instead, Louie yelled defiantly at his captor and thrust the cross above his head. This show of strength inspired his fellow POWs and broke his sadistic torturer, who beat him and left him for dead.
  1. Which is all human resilience will get you. What is the point of withstanding wrecks, sharks, famine, beatings, and concentration camps if we all die in the end? “Unbroken” inadvertently puts the lie to its own story, for in the credits it flashes a picture of the real Louie with the caption, 1917-2014. Louie died this year, which means he finally was broken. The war and “the Bird” didn’t get him, but death did. What is our only hope for the enemy that stalks us all? “Unbroken” doesn’t say, though a closing slide hints at the answer. It read, “After years of severe post-traumatic stress, Louie made good on his promise to serve God, a decision he credited with saving his life.”
  1. There is a reason why the world turns the central fact of a Christian’s life into an endnote. The culture says the key is to remain “Unbroken,” bloodied but unbowed. We say the key is to admit we are broken and undone. We must feel the weight of our sin and our inability to save ourselves. Only then can we receive the grace that we desperately need. Christians don’t believe we can remain unbroken. It’s too late for that. We believe in the resurrection. The real Louie wasn’t unbroken. He was forgiven. And he will rise again.


Add yours →

  1. When I read the book earlier this year I thought it was titled wrongly. It would have been better to entitle it “Finally Broken” as that captured more of the essence of Louie’s whole life. I suspect that such a title would have changed the whole marketing campaign of the both the book publication and the movie.

  2. Mike, thank you for an outstanding review. The real story documented in the book was missed in the movie because the gospel is what gave Louie the ability to forgive, and find the grace in Christ to heal his brokenness. You captured the strengths and glaring weakness of the movie in your well written analysis.

  3. Elden Stielstra January 1, 2015 — 1:27 pm

    Thanks, Mike. We are going tomorrow (55th anniversary) and I will watch for your observations.

  4. Zamperini’s autobiography, Devil at My Heels, is worth the read. His testimony to God’s saving grace is clear – chapter and verse.

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