Louis Zamperini isn’t the type of person you’d expect to see at a Billy Graham Crusade. But he is the type of person who needs to be there.
“God is my enemy,” he tell his wife.
Zamperini, though, says he has reason to be angry at God. A bombardier during World War II, his plane crashed at sea due to mechanical failure, forcing him to survive on raw fish and birds as he drifted aimlessly on a raft for 47 days. And when he did find an island, he was captured by the Japanese, placed in a prison camp, and brutally tortured for two years. On multiple occasions, he nearly died.
Now he’s back in the United States, trying to find hope and purpose in life during post-war America. But without a college education, he’s having trouble finding a job. And thanks to a recent injury, his track-and-field Olympic dreams are over, too.
So Zamperini turns to alcohol to hide his sorrows. Instead of looking for a job, he visits bars. He also hides money from his wife and his favorite adult beverages in the toilet tank.
Louis Zamperini is an angry, bitter man who has few goals in life, other than to return to Japan and kill his captors. His wife, sensing hopelessness, wants a divorce.
Then a miracle happens. She invites him to the 1949 Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade, where he accepts Christ. Soon, he’s considering the unthinkable: traveling back to Japan to forgive his captors instead of killing them. Will he find the power to follow through and do it?
The film Unbroken: Path to Redemption (PG-13) opens this weekend, telling the true-life story of Louis Zamperini’s return to America. It is a sequel to the 2014 hit movie Unbroken and has the same producer (Matthew Baer), even if it does have a new cast. It is based on the bestselling book by Laura Hillenbrand. The film stars Samuel Hunt (Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D.) as Zamperini; Merritt Patterson (The Royals) as his wife, Cynthia; and Will Graham, the grandson of Billy Graham, as the famous evangelist.
It was made in partnership between Universal 1440 Entertainment and two faith-based companies: PureFlix and The WTA Group.
The movie opens where the 2014 film ended. The war is over, and veterans like Zamperini are trying to get their lives back on track.
Unbroken: Path to Redemption is well done and inspirational. Will Graham calls it “one of the greatest stories of forgiveness outside of the Bible.” I agree.
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)
Moderate. Zamperini has flashbacks to his days of being tortured and being hit, although none of the scenes are grotesque. He and Cynthia have an argument; he pushes her to the bed. He throws items off the dresser.
Minimal. A beach scene includes a few women in 1940s-style swimsuits. We see men without their shirts. Louis and Cynthia kiss several times.
Other Positive Elements
Zamperini comes from a family of faith, and we hear them pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Cynthia – often an unsung hero — considers but later rejects divorce as an option.
Other Stuff You Might Want To Know
Zamperini drinks alcohol and visits bars.
Unbroken: Path to Redemption is full of biblical messages: forgiving those who have wronged you (Louis) and never giving up on someone who needs help (Cynthia pursuing Louis), among them. The perils of war and post-traumatic stress disorder also are major themes, along with the need to reach out to veterans and military families.
The Apostle Paul’s testimony likely ranks at the top of the most dramatic conversion stories of all time. But if we are to take Will Graham’s advice and consider stories outside of Scripture, then I suspect Louis Zamperini’s life would rank pretty high. In the filthy Japanese prison, he was regularly beaten and tortured. One time, he was told to hold a beam over his head and if he dropped it, he would be shot. Another time, he was treated as a lab rat and given experimental medicines that caused severe pain. Covered with lice and mosquitoes, Zamperini was given just enough food to stay alive. He weighed less than 100 pounds when the war ended.
But because his sins were forgiven by Christ, he was compelled to forgive his captors – the very men he formerly hated and wanted to kill. It’s a powerful example of the Gospel.
Someone once said that “the glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness.” That’s what Zamperini did. Eventually, he became a Christian evangelist.
Cynthia, too, is a hero in this story. Without her patience and her desire to forgive her husband, we likely never would have heard of Louis Zamperini.
Zamperini’s appearance in front of the Japanese is powerful. Also, Will Graham is stellar as his grandfather. The 1949 Crusade was a turning point in Billy Graham’s ministry, and filmmakers did a great job recreating it.
Some of the flashback/nightmare scenes. A few of them work, but the others are odd.
1. Do you think you could have done what Zamperini did?
2. Is there someone you need to forgive? What’s holding you back?
3. Why is forgiveness sometimes so hard? What do we lose by failing to forgive? What do we gain by forgiving?
4. Do you sense God is wanting you to be a “Cynthia” for someone?
Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Rated PG-13 for thematic content and related disturbing images.