To Watch or to Read: Unbroken

Last night my hubby and I had a much-appreciated movie date night; we watched the World War II survival story of Olympian Louie Zamperini. We read Unbroken last year (well, he listened on audio CD and I read it), and had been looking forward to watching Louie’s unbelievable story splashed across the big screen.

What did I think? How did the book and movie compare?

Let’s start with that book. (*Spoilers*)

The Book


At 528 pages, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is an intimidating read. But please believe me when I say it’s a worthwhile investment of your time to do so. Louie, Phil, and the crew of “Super Man” are unforgettable characters set in a true-life, haunting story of perseverance and pain. Of love and loss. And of suffering and pain.

Of forgiveness and grace.

As author Laura Hillenbrand states, Louie’s “almost incomprehensibly dramatic life” makes for a page-turning World War II Survival story. The book gripped me tight, settling into my mind and heart and memory. It’s a narrative that ranges the full scope of human experience and emotion, almost unbelievable, yet not.

It’s also beautiful in its truthful depiction of the ugliness of war and the indelible loss of life for love of country.

If you’re wondering if you should read the book, stop wondering.

Read it.

The Movie


Since the movie’s Christmas release, there’s been a furor surrounding the spiritual content included (or rather, not included) in the movie. Louie’s conversion to Christ, after the war, is conspicuously absent from the film, I read in friends’ posts and comments on social media.

Going in, I was skeptical. I greatly valued the message at the end of the book Unbroken, that true peace and forgiveness can only be found through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Louie’s story resounded with me (and many others) because though the majority of us haven’t experienced the horrors he did, we all need God’s forgiveness and grace.

Could a secular director helm a movie based on a life replete with God’s redemptive power?

In my humble opinion, the movie soars like the B-24 Liberator “Super Man” Captain Phil and his crew flew across the Pacific so many years ago. Director Jolie and the cast created a vivid, honorable take on Louie’s life and war-time experiences, sketching as best they could in a two-hour movie.

The movie Unbroken cannot encompass all that the book does; don’t expect it to, movie viewers. Instead the movie focuses on Louie’s childhood, highlights of his Olympic experience, and details the alarming physical battle waged on the Pacific by the three-man raft and later in the prisoner of war camps.

It’s brutal to watch at times, and the actor portraying “the Bird” gives viewers a thorough look into the psychotic mess Louie dealt with while a POW.

I was touched by the movie’s tender portrayal of Louie and his brother Pete; I only cried once, when Pete kisses Louie goodbye as he heads off to war.

I also found the affection and camaraderie between pilot Phil and Louie genuine and bittersweet, particularly when they were separated before being sent off to separate POW camps.

Was Louie’s faith left out?

I do not believe so.

The movie is not the book. It paints a slightly different, but still effective, rendering of Louie’s life.

The movie touches softly, but firmly, on Louie’s faith. One of the first scenes shows pre-teen Louie in church with his family, half-listening as the Pastor/Father reads scripture about Jesus and forgiveness. The scripture is from Matthew (I believe), words about forgiving one’s enemies.

This scene is powerful and meaningful, foreshadowing exactly what Louie will later need from the only One who can provide true forgiveness.

My only major complaint about the movie? The abruptness of the ending. Not necessarily because Louie’s actual conversion was left out, (there is a blurb about Louie’s life after the war, his marriage to Cynthia, and his life-changing faith), but because I felt a sense of ‘loose ends’ when I walked out of the theater.

I highly, highly recommend the book Unbroken. I bought the Young Adult version to read with our boys eventually. I also highly recommend the movie; though it doesn’t quite compare to Louie’s amazing story found in Laura’s book, it’s still a worthwhile two-hour look into the human spirit seen through Louie Zamperini’s blue eyes.


2 thoughts on “To Watch or to Read: Unbroken

  1. I agree with your review for both the book and the movie, Kerry! I learned so much about the planes (in rattrap condition) and the bravery of young meant in the book. I thought Jolie did a great job with the movie, too, and especially the scenes in the ocean and the camps. I don’t think folks who haven’t read the book will understand the point of that food being stowed away and why men who haven’t eaten much can need the bathroom so much. My grandson is reading it now and he can’t put it down either. If you haven’t seen the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s rest of the story, here’s the link. It’s definitely worth the watch, too, because it delves into his alcoholism and the faith that restored his life and marriage.

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