Unbroken: Path to Redemption
Samuel Hunt, Merritt Patterson, Will Graham
Runtime: 98 min
The 2014 film Unbroken recounted the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who survived a long, harrowing ordeal during World War II: his plane crashed into the Pacific, he spent 47 days adrift in a life raft, he was captured by the Japanese, and he was dealt especially brutal punishment in prison camps due to his status as an Olympic athlete.
This 2018 sequel continues the story as Zamperini (Samuel Hunt) returns home a hero but has difficulty readjusting to civilian life, suffering from what today might be diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Haunted by wartime traumas and memories of his Japanese tormentor, Corporal Mutsuhiro “the Bird” Watanabe (David Sakurai), Zamperini – already long adrift from his Catholic faith — descends into alcoholism and depression. He meets and hastily marries a fine Christian woman in Cynthia Applewhite (Merritt Patterson), but her longsuffering love and even the birth of their daughter cannot save Louis from his self-destructive spiral as he plots murderous revenge against “the Bird.” Miraculously, Cynthia’s commitment and the preaching of a young Billy Graham lead Louis to a conversion, literally dropping him to his knees in a dramatic embrace of healing and forgiveness.
“God’s not to blame for your suffering,” the family’s parish priest tells Louis shortly after his return from the war, and that summarizes well the theme of this sequel. By film’s end, Zamperini gets it: “[God] kept me alive through everything for this,” he says in a moment of epiphany as he gazes adoringly at his wife and daughter.
A textual epilogue tells the best part of the story: Zamperini becomes a Christian evangelist, founds a camp for disadvantaged boys, and stays married to Cynthia for 54 years (she died in 2001). It’s disappointing that an Italian Catholic boy strays from his childhood faith, but one can appreciate the rediscovery that leads him from the horrors of war to renewed hope, from the darkness of despair into the light of faith.
GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.