Wednesday, December 10, 2014


www.thekeystonekid.orgI love movies, so much so that on occasion I will drive 3 hours through rush hour traffic in a major city to see one. Such was the case recently when I drove to Kansas City for an advance screening of Unbroken, a film meant to inspire and reflect the power of forgiveness. A wonderful concept if you will, especially when considering the film is to be released on Christmas day.

Unbroken follows through the use of flashbacks and narrative filming to tell the story of Louis Silvie “Louie” Zamperini. An Italian American growing up in California during the 1920's and 30's. He escaped his troubled youth through track and field distance running where he went on to run in the German, (Hitler) hosted Olympics of 1936. He later joined the U.S. Air Corps where the plane he was in crashed in the Pacific Ocean where he would spend 47 days at sea prior to being 'rescued' by Japanese forces. He remained a prisoner for the duration of the war.

Unbroken is directed by Angelina Jolie and the script is written by the Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan. I must give kudos to Jolie for a well crafted effort that uses little dialog, especially from the principal actors and weaves the story together rather nicely. One of the things I was not certain of though was the way the story was weaved together by what appears to be the script. I am going to say something I hope others don't take wrong, but a huge part, if not the primary part of Zamperini's life and the thing that gave him the ability to endure the difficulties he went through was his faith, while there is brief mention of this, we never hear much dialog about it in the film. Instead the movie depends largely on images to present his ability to remain Unbroken. I have to wonder if the script writers and direction in the film truly understood the importance of this in Zamperini's life as it isn't evident to the viewer until the closing scenes where we see written narration on screen? This doesn't mean there aren't impressive qualities about the film, there absolutely is and in many ways the movie comes across as a reminder to the human ability to overcome. It shows the strength of a man, in an alluded way, through faith in a kind of Passion of the Christ movie kind of way without the bloody violence as displayed in The Passion of the Christ. It isn't to say Unbroken isn't emotional though, there was one lady during one particular scene in the theater I was in that had to literally run out of the theater weeping because she could not deal with what she was seeing on screen. There is brutality expressed in a haunting, and if you will, from a filmmaking perspective beautiful way. I would have just liked to have seen the character dealing with his faith through the process as it was a part of what made the man in real life who he was.

www.thekeystonekid.orgThe two primary leads in the film do a surprisingly good job since they are not well known in film
circles as lead actors. Jack O'Connell does a very nice job in the lead roll of Zamperini. He actually has very little dialog and has to tell his story primarily through narration and living out the scenes on screen. His facial expressions and what times he does use dialog are very impressive though. The other example of little dialog from the actor is Takamasa Ishihara who plays the part of Mutsushiro Watanabe, known to the prisoners of war as The Bird, the overseer of the prisons where Zamperini spent his time during incarceration. Ishihara is so good I will be surprised if he doesn't receive an Academy Award nomination. The Bird was a brutal man who literally had Zamperini live through Hell on earth. The acting, all the way around, with no major movie stars is very good. Unbroken based on the quality of filmmaking alone, complete with cinematography, sound, etc... is worth seeing. I have to wonder though, will a story of this type, released on Christmas day, be well received?

www.thevirtualpew.comZamperini was a deeply spiritual man who made it very clear in his life that his faith and commitment specifically to Jesus Christ was what enabled him to remain unbroken during his time at sea and while imprisoned in Japan. Yet, while we see glimpses of this, allusion if you will, we don't have clarity as to that in the film. The imagery is definitely there though, from the struggles of a young man growing up in a deeply religious family, attending church, losing focus during church to ultimately being inspired by those around him through their faith in God. We even see him in a desperate situation, which resonates with the way it was for him to make a commitment to God while in a dangerous place. Here, he isn't just asking for spiritual salvation, he is asking for salvation from the situation he is in. We also see Zamperini in an almost supernatural way have the strength to endure and overcome situations that most of us watching wonder how could he overcome?

While a prisoner of war movie, Unbroken resonates with what I believe is the greatest illustration of the power of Christianity and faith in a movie I have seen on the topic, the 2001 movie, To End All Wars, starring Kiefer Sutherland. I have to compare these films because they seem to be so close in intent. To surmise the two; one, To End All Wars, is a great movie, Unbroken is a very good movie. I personally appreciated the intentional, and clear reminder of the importance and struggle with faith in To End All Wars much more as it seems a a more honest approach to the struggle one may go through in these situations.

www.mosaicwichita.comUnbroken is however a powerful reminder of the need to overcome, especially for people who profess to believe in a God that gives the ability to overcome. It is a powerful reminder of the need to love, without retaliation and the powerful witness that can display for others. While watching the film one quickly sees what a hero is. Zamperini was undoubtedly a hero who was given strength by God to endure and overcome. In his ability to endure, there is no doubt of his witness to the strength and power of God but also the inspiration it gave others who witnessed what he went through. Unbroken, clearly on the topic of inspiration, gives clear witness to the ability of God to change a human life. From a young boy who wouldn't give up the fight, to a man dedicated to God who in the end, refused to fight in order that he may save lives, Zamperini was clearly a man who experienced God in his life, whether the film clearly speaks to that point or not.

www.thekeystonekid.orgMany from reading my review may think I didn't think highly of Unbroken, that is a mistake. It is a worthy film and one I believe that if thinking of the attributes of faith and what gives the strength to maintain that faith. If reminded of these concepts prior to seeing the movie one can clearly see the inspiration the movie can provide, even on Christmas day. Otherwise, as good as it is, it is also a message that could be overlooked by those seeing the film. I suspect the diehard, gun toting, blow the hell out of them 'christians' will take issue with the concepts of peace and nonviolence portrayed in the film, especially the efforts of Zamperini after the war but it is what it is. The mans life inspired multitudes, not by the act of war but the willingness to love and respond to violence with non violence. A concept many Christians have forgotten about, but an example once again, portrayed in a powerful way on screen. It is hard to forget about the sacrifices of men of this era, especially men like Zamperini, a true hero, who in the end, practiced forgiveness and love, not retaliation, certainly not in his personal life. While he understood the role of governments if you will, he also showed, by his actions and words, that he also understood the role of loving others and forgiveness as a bi-product of his faith. That is also a reminder for each person to consider, on the release of the film on Christmas day which celebrates the birth of the one called, The Prince of Peace.

I do feel compelled to make a closing comment, apparently according to the book, and comments by Zamperin, his conversion to Christ did not come until after WW2 via a Billy Graham Crusade. That said, the review is from the presentation of the film, but I think appropriate to get that concept worth mentioning to give the man the respect he deserves for the things he went through. I still think the review is appropriate though as to impression this reviewer felt and experienced from the movie. 

While not perfect and falling just short of To End All Wars in my humble opinion, this is a very good, well worth watching, confrontation of faith in action movie. For that reason, for the number of letters in Zamperini, I give a very deserved 9 on a scale of 1 - 10

The following is a short documentary on the Real Louis Zamperini, to see the video simply click on the video, if that doesn't work, click on the following link:

The Virtual Pew and our other work is supported solely by the kind contributions of others. You can click on the donate button below to give any amount to this work that does so much more than just post articles on the net; I draw no ongoing salary from the church I pastor, Mosaic Wichita which is predominantly a homeless church; I am grateful for any small amount you can contribute to help with this ministry.  Believe me there is much more going on than most realize. I will also provide information to verify the ministry and income that comes into this ministry and work.  Thanks and feel free to share any material from The Virtual Pew, I only ask that appropriate credit is given and a link to the original site with the materials provided.

Click here to read about, and order the book, The Keystone Kid!store
Click here to visit the web page The Virtual Pew

Click here to follow The Virtual Pew on Twitter

Mike Furches on Faceboook.

Click here to visit Mosaic Church where Mike is Pastor

The Keystone Kid/Virtual Pew Message Boards

Click to subscribe to my blog

There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives. You can also contact me for a free audio book link of The Keystone Kid at You can visit

Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

Now I get asked this quite often, Can we repost your blogs or articles? The short answer to that is, what an honor that you would ask, and by all means, spread the word. Here is our contact information

The Virtual Pew
1249 N. St. Francis
Wichita Kansas, 67214

Click on the following links to learn more about The Virtual Pew

Donations to The Virtual Pew

The Virtual Pew Blog

Personal Furches Web Site

Hollywood Jesus

Reviews With Mike

The Virtual Pew Sermons

No comments: