Unbroken: Path to Redemption: Movie Review
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While outstanding in many ways, there just seemed to be something missing from Director Angelina Jolie's 2014 Oscar-nominated film, Unbroken.
Audiences were introduced to American hero Louis Zamperini, a man whose life was nothing short of an unbelievable odyssey. He was a long-distance runner at the 1936 Olympics, a World War II bombardier whose plane crashed into the sea, a desperate man floating on a raft for 47 days in hopes of being rescued, and a prisoner of war for more than two years in a Japanese detention camp.
Jolie did an admirable job in showing us these remarkable events. But, it left people to wonder what happened to Zamperini after the war?
Unbroken: Path to Redemption attempts to answer that question. The Pure Flix movie begins where Unbroken leaves off. While Jolie's adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand's 2010 best-selling book was about the struggle to save Louis' life, this second film is about the struggle to save his soul.
Starring Samuel Hunt (Chicago P.D.) and Merritt Patterson (The Royals), Unbroken: Path to Redemption is directed by Harold Cronk, who piloted the first two God's Not Dead movies.
THE MOVIE IN A MINUTE
A broken man from serving two and a half years in a Japanese prison camp during World War II, Louis Zamperini just wants to move on with his life. But, he can't. An American hero, Louis sees himself as anything but. His life begins to spiral out of control due to devastating nightmares of his torment and by trying to self-medicate with alcohol.
A ray of hope arrives when he meets Cynthia, an attractive young woman who becomes his wife after a whirlwind courtship. Sadly, even with Cynthia in his life, he desires nothing more than to get revenge on the brutal prison guards who terrorized him. His PTSD-fueled quest for revenge eventually drives Louis and Cynthia's marriage to the verge of divorce. With his life unraveling to the point of near collapse, she somehow convinces him to attend Billy Graham's 1949 Los Angeles tent crusade. There, Louis finally finds the peace and redemption he needs to not only forgive his captors, but to chart the course for the rest of his life.
THE GOOD AND BAD OF UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION
Unbroken: Path to Redemption is basically rooted in two love stories: Louis' love for his wife and his love of God. Because Zamperini's story is so epic and filled with highly noteworthy moments, the challenge for any director is to not try and cram every last detail into a two-hour movie. Clocking in at 98 minutes, Cronk does an admirable job of weaving these two key plotlines together to create a balanced flow of story and pace.
Hunt's portrayal of the lithe, 1940s era Zamperini was a great casting decision. While Jack O'Connell's version of him in Unbroken was quite solid, he never seemed to look comfortable in scenes that were athletic in nature. Conversely, the slightly gaunt Hunt looks natural as a world-class runner in the scenes when he toys with the idea of competing in the 1948 Olympics.
Nominated for three Oscars, the first Unbroken movie was produced for $65 million dollars. Unbroken: Path to Redemption was made for just $6 million ... and it shows. Despite some clever camera tricks employed by Cronk, the movie fails to deliver enough grit and special effects to satisfy general audiences. The end result is a movie that sometimes feels sanitized and too clean.
However, the hallmark of Unbroken: Path to Redemption is Zamperini's triumphant conversion to Christ at the aforementioned 1949 Los Angeles Billy Graham tent crusade. In a remarkable casting move, first-time actor Will Graham, grandson of Billy, portrays his grandfather and actually preaches part of the same sermon from that watershed event in Zamperini's life. The younger Graham possesses many of the same cadences and vocal rhythms that made his grandfather such a commanding presence in the pulpit. This comes in handy, as God's message of hope and deliverance are quite palpable during his time onscreen.
Rated PG-13 for thematic content and related disturbing images, this film is not recommended for young viewers. Audiences will see scenes of torture, troubling psychological flashbacks, and alcohol use. However, these cautionary warnings are presented tastefully and well within the context of the subject matter.
IN THE END
Despite not being the visual tour de force its predecessor was, Unbroken: Path to Redemption delivers a critically valuable message. Louis Zamperini was a famous, highly successful man, who lived with inner demons that seemed impossible to shake. But, he was living proof that with God's amazing grace, deliverance is possible. For that reason, this is a movie worth seeing.
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