There is a conversation going on in Hollywood and on the film talk sites that there are not enough women directors making films. I agree that this is a shame but it has lead to people being overly complimentary of any work that a woman has done in the director’s chair. You will find praise for Lexi Alexander, even though I personally find no reason to give her praise at all for the films she has directed. You will find praise for Catherine Hardwicke who I feel is a very subpar director. I did enjoy The Nativity Story but I feel the first Twilight film had so many missteps that it really began the franchise on a poor note. There are other female directors out there that do have promise but I had high hopes for Angelina Jolie. The trailer for Unbroken looked fantastic! But when the critic reviews began to hit they where way below expected. At one point the “rotten tomatoes” critic score went below 50%. This means that only half of the movie critics out there actually liked the film. This was disappointing to me and made me wonder if Angelina Jolie bit off more then she could chew with such a large story and huge movie. It crossed my mind to just see this when it hit Redbox. However, a few things happened since then. One was, I began this blog and Unbroken certainly did have a faith aspect to it. The main character, Louis Zamperini famously gave his life to Christ and began to do work for the Kingdom. The second thing that happened became so confusing to me that I began to question these film critics who gave it a poor score. It was nominated for Best Picture in the Critics Choice Awards. Some of you may say “I don’t put much stock in awards, it’s all political.” But the Critics Choice Awards is voted on by the Critics, the same Critics that gave this movie a low score. Other films where left off the list that got much higher scores. At this point my curiosity got the better of me and I had to go see how Jolie did.
I have wrestled around with adding some sort of “star rating” to my reviews but this always cause me problems. First, I know 5 stars wouldn’t be enough because if I see 3 stars my mind should tell me that the film was above average, but that is not what my mind sees. My mind sees a negative review. The other problem I have is, depending on the day and how long ago I saw the movie my stars would change. I have seen many movies that left me feeling like I hated the movie but as I sit and think about it I find I actually really liked it. I also have loved movies that I watched but over time my excitement for the film leaves and I find I didn’t like it as much. So as for now, I don’t think I will be doing the star thing… maybe if I think it is a 5 Star or something… I don’t know, still thinking.
I will tell you that I was not disappointed at all with Jolie’s direction! I think the movie was beautiful! I think she pulled off a retro, throwback feel to the old classic WWII films I grew up loving and that feel was PERFECT for this story. I will also make a bold statement that many might disagree with but I feel she pulled off a Ron Howard tone in her movie, like an early Ron Howard. Obviously she does not Have the experience Ron Howard does and it showed slightly but I was very impressed with the look and feel of the film.
The story did seem to have a slow burn to it. I have heard people describe it as slow or even boring. I did not get this, I chose the words “slow burn” on purpose. Again, to make the comparison to Ron Howard, I felt it had the slow burn of a movie like A Beautiful Mind or Cinderella Man, again. Not that it was done as well as those but that is the feel I got from the flow of the story. All these things together tell me that Jolie is a woman director to get honestly excited about. Unlike some of the other ones who do not live up to their praise. I would certainly welcome more from Jolie and am interested to see how she progresses as she hones her craft.
As I am aware that some people reading this might want to know about the content of the movie because some people want to filter the things they watch and I am all for their right to do so. Different things affect people differently and I have my lines I draw as to movies I refuse to see over certain content. Because your line might be different then mine I still encourage anyone to look over the exhaustive list of questionable content provided by Plugged In. However I will quick give you a little right here.
The film is not devoid of foul or harsh language but I would contend that it is no more than you would hear as you would catch conversations while walking through the mall. The movie has violence, he was in a concentration camp and torture is shown, although it was very much toned down from what he actually went through. There is a scene of nudity as two prisoners are stripped down to be washed up in the concentration camp.
While reading various reviews from some Christian Movie reviewers and some Facebook comments and such I began to see a little bit of a pattern. It seemed many Christians and fans of the book where disappointed that more of his life as a Christian was not shown. In fact, none of it was. Only a line at the end that he eventually made good on his promise to God. If you would humor me though, I would like to lay out a different approach to the film. I find myself more and more trying to look for the good in films because I am very concerned that the big studios are going to eventually say “Well, we can’t seem to do anything right for Christians so why try!” after The Year of the Bible I am afraid this might be the case already.
So here is my alternative Christian response that I want to argue, you can take it or leave it. The movie was called Unbroken, what the writers and director and producers did was created a movie around that focus. They attempted to show how he went through everything and didn’t break. The film was already a long movie and some people already feel the movie didn’t do justice to the torment he went through. So, the question becomes, do you remove the things that he went through to insert more of his life after the war? If you feel the answer is yes, then you run the risk of watering down even more his struggle which has already been lessened by the restraint shown by the film makers.
If you do this, and make it seem like he came home and gave his life directly to God and began serving God, you are not telling the truth and once again, you belittle some of what he went through. After the war he did not become a Christian right away. He went through so much more as a very broken man. He got into many bar fights, he married (as the movie said) but began to beat his wife as a response to his post traumatic stress. He was once caught shaking his baby because she was crying and he wanted her to stop. His wife eventually divorced him out of an attempt to gain some safety. If you add these things to the movie suddenly you have a movie that feels like it should be called “Broken” instead of “Unbroken.”
The problem is not that the filmmakers tried to belittle the Christian aspect of his life. I feel they were very clear that he was searching through all these events but if they were to add these things the focus of the film would have been much more scattered and the story would have become choppy as they try to fit too much in. You would have had a film that would not do justice to any aspect of what he went through because you tried to fit it all in.
What I propose is watch the film like it is. Don’t expect the Gospel to be shared. That isn’t this films job, it is yours as a follower of Christ. Use it to begin a conversation, read up on Louis’ story. Inform people on the rest of the story and don’t leave out the darkness because when the darkness is made lighter the light becomes dimmer. Don’t be frustrated that the movie stopped short of the Christian message, to become a Christian Louis had to be broken, it wouldn’t have fit into this portion of his story.
Here is my hope, I hope that someone out there decides to make an unofficial sequel to Unbroken. It would make for a perfect movie by World Wide Pictures (the film branch of Billy Graham Ministries.) If anyone does it, do it with quality! Make sure you secure a respectable budget for it! Call it “Broken” make it a love story at the beginning as he meets his wife. Show how things spiral out of control and she realizes the horror she got herself into. Show his obsession with plotting the murder of The Bird. She him leaving in anger from the Billy Graham meeting. Show his redemption! Build on what this movie had done! Those two films side by side would make for a great full story of Louis’ life! In this respect, you will find that this film didn’t cut anything out, it simply didn’t have the time to tell the entire story and still doing it justice! If you watch the movie after reading this, or even if you have seen it, I challenge you to view it like this, like it is not the entire story. For now, the rest of the story is yours to tell family and friends. To expect someone else to tell the story for you would rob you of the personal touch you can give the story. It can be a time of good conversation and good fellowship. Read up on it! Use his story! The story God wrote with Louis Zamperini as the pen! Part of the story was told for you, finish it with friends! And World Wide Pictures… feel free to contact me for pointers on how to proceed.
As always, to my friends family and any other readers I might have, grace and peace to you from our Heavenly Father!