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'Unbroken' Skips Over Louis Zamperini's Post-War Struggles


Now to a current movie - when a book sells as many copies as Lauren Hillenbrand's "Unbroken" has sold, you had to think a film was coming. And the day has arrived. Here's Kenneth Turan's review.

KENNTH TURAN, BYLINE: The true story of Louie Zamperini's life is filled with so much incident and drama. It seems that it couldn't all have happened to one man. It did. But all the incidents haven't made it into the film version of "Unbroken," and that creates a problem. The film, briskly directed by Angelina Jolie, begins with Zamperini's hell raiser childhood. As played by top young British actor Jack O'Connell, Zamperini channels his fury into distance runner and gets good enough to make the 1936 U.S. Olympic team. As he starts the journey to Berlin his brother gives him some advice he took to heart.


ALEX RUSSELL: (As Pete) Louie, a moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory. Remember that.

TURAN: World War II derails Zamperini's running dreams. As an Army Air Corps bombardier, he is shot down over the Pacific and endures a soul-destroying 47 days on a raft before a Japanese vessel picks him up and sends him to the first of a series of nightmare-ish prison camps. The black heart of that nightmare was the Japenese soldier known as the Bird, played by Japanese rockstar Miyavi, a man who made inflicting an endless series of beyond-sadistic punishments on Zamperini his life's work.


MIYAVI: (As Mutsushiro) You are enemies of Japan. You will be treated accordingly. Look at me. Look me in the eye.

TURAN: In real life, Zamperini's postwar story has a tremendous ending. He endures years of alcoholism and PTSD before a religious awakening, inspired by Billy Graham, changes his life. Yet, the film relegates this drama to a few brief seconds of text on screen. This decision wreaks havoc with the stories equilibrium making "Unbroken" into a drama about torture, not redemption. The result is a film we respect more than love, and that's a wasted opportunity.

GREENE: That's the voice of Kenneth Turan. He reviews movies for the Los Angeles Times and also for MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.
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