I saw the movie Unbroken during the Christmas holiday. I had read the book a couple of years earlier and wondered why they hadn’t yet made the story into a movie. It is absolutely unbelievable what Louie Zamperini endured. I cannot imagine being in that situation and surviving not just the physical suffering and deprivation of a POW, but the mental anguish and hopelessness that attends such a condition. As I watched the movie, the word “broken” kept going through my mind. I was assaulted by the brokenness of war; the brokenness of a world where people hate and attempt to dominate and denigrate those who look different and speak a different language; the brokenness of families and systems that grow children into adults capable of such atrocities; and the brokenness of the human heart riddled with sin and allergic to its Creator.
Louis Zamperini, though he endured, was actually a broken man living in a broken world. He was not motivated by love and forgiveness, but survived like so many people on the bread of hatred and the water of revenge. It was only after he gave his life to Jesus Christ at one of Billy Graham’s first evangelistic tent meetings in Los Angeles that he became unbroken; something that the movie unfortunately left out. One needs to be whole before they can be unbroken and Louie was anything but whole when he came back from the war. Whole people do not self-destruct, which was what Zamperini was in the process of doing. In a very real sense he was doing to himself exactly what the Bird (the commandant of the prison camp who was so cruel to Louie) had failed to do. And to further underscore his brokenness, Louie walked out on Billy Graham at the first mention of sin. However, Louie’s wife convinced him to go back on another night and he responded to the good news of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ. Louie became a whole man; an unbroken man, driven by love for broken juveniles and for his broken tormentors.
It is unfortunate that the message of forgiveness and reconciliation was a mere echo in the movie because it is this message that our broken world needs so desperately to hear. Instead we hear hatred preached across the racial divide in our own cities, revenge practiced by the purveyors of Islamic fundamentalism in France, and power-mongering violence of the Assad regime in Syria pushing millions to refugee status and to the brink of starvation. Where is the message of reconciliation for the Palestinians and the Israelis? It lies in the gospel of Jesus Christ; the very message our broken world does not want to hear (like Louie, at first) because of its brokenness.
I recommend the movie even though it misses its chance to be prophetic. Perhaps it will influence people to read the book. By the way, another movie that you may want to see is To End All Wars (2001). It is a true story about four Allied POWs who endured incredibly harsh treatment in a Japanese prison camp during WW2. The movie is based upon the real-life account of Ernest Gordon contained in his book Through the Valley of the Kwai. It is not an easy movie to watch but you will see and hear the message of costly sacrifice and reconciliation that is at the heart of the gospel.