“Unbroken” rises above audience expectations

For a film with a plain, mundane title such as “Unbroken,” I really expected a cinematic letdown.

Unfortunately, I feel pangs of skepticism each time I enter a theater to watch a movie “based on true events.” The fact is, movie adaptations are rarely accurate portrayals of the pages giving it life. “Gone With the Wind” might be the only exception of an accurate depiction of book-to-screen characterization, but normally I stay away from the theater based solely on this reason.

The beginning monologues and scenes of “Unbroken” shifted into my reassuring skepticism, but when the characters picked up the actual story, I could not have been more wrong about a movie.

The flick, produced by Angelina Jolie, raked in a few decent reviews from moviegoers young and old. My verdict? Simply put — phenomenal story, decent movie.

The story follows the life of Louis “Louie” Zamperini, an Italian immigrant and World War II soldier battling for his life on domestic (U.S.) and foreign land. As a child misfit-turned high school track star, Louie advances to a spot on the prewar U.S. Olympic team. The games are held in Germany amid a tension-filled Nazi-German crowd. He races to the finish line a winner in the eyes of the U.S. and soon becomes an athletic sensation, until his civic duty interrupts his dream. War is calling.

The cinematic appeal is grappling, nonetheless. However, the timeline of events seemed too structured. Though Louie’s sparse flashbacks give the audience a taste of his hidden pain, the scene length is extensive. I caught myself shifting my legs and contemplating the thought of popcorn and gummy worms during the prolonged parts.

After enlisting and taking assignment to the bombardier position on a tin can of a plane, Zamperini and his crew crash into the Pacific Ocean after faulty engines collapse. Three survive, including him. With several survival tactics up his sleeve, Zamperini singlehandedly keeps the men alive for 47 days saying, “If I can take it, I can make it.” Actors Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock enthrall and disgust audiences by eating “fresh” seafood and keeping their minds anew spouting baseball facts.

Zamperini and his cohorts are finally rescued from insanity and sharks…by Japanese Naval forces. Thus, the prisoner-of-war struggle begins. For a guy who cannot catch a break, Zamperini’s spirit is about as red, white and blue, and resilient as they come. His emotions never embraced fear, only bravery, courage and heroism. Upon arriving at a POW camp, Imperial Japanese Army sergeant Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe tries to break Zamperini’s unrelenting spirit. Zamperini is consistently picked on with the use of torturous techniques, yet his spirit never dies. Once knocked down, he rises up again. Zamperini’s popularity gives him a chance to speak his condolences to the U.S. after accusations the U.S. track star is dead. He addresses his family and the radio agents offer him another session, only if he reads the propagandist script. Zamperini refuses and is transferred back to the POW camp under “The Bird’s” reign.

The war finally ends and Zamperini returns home to his proud Italian family brandishing the Purple Heart and an array of other medals.

The Bird flees into hiding and stays off the grid for several years to come.

The film takes the audience on a dramatic and inspiring ride, featuring major heartbreaking and uplifting points of Zamperini’s struggle for survival.

For those seeking an uplifting feeling amid the war, heartbreak and extreme violence of a World War II adaptation, “Unbroken” is worth the watch.