A chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.This remarkable story takes us through Louis Zamperini's life as a juvenile delinquent, championship runner, and after his plane is shot down in the Pacific during WWII. We learn the source and inspiration of the determination that helps him survive harrowing experiences.
The result is a powerful film which left me pondering the effects of war on both captors and captives, not just in WWII but in every conflict. The situations and lessons are as old as time.
Faith is shown and discussed briefly in the first half of the film but never with a heavy hand. Indeed, much of the last half depended on subtle imagery for us to see the Christ-like parallels being drawn. I applaud director Angelina Jolie for including an element that many would have chosen to eliminate, but which was so important to Zamperini's life.
It is beautifully photographed and directed with great restraint. I saw a review disdainfully mentioning that Jolie was determined to keep the rating PG13. I applaud her decision as working within those guidelines kept the majority of violence offscreen in the creative style of some of our most classic movies. That restraint also was evident in a brief but beautifully effective scene that reminded us of the cost of war to the civilian population.
Jack O'Connell as Louis Zamperini and Miyavi as "The Bird" give masterful performances in their adversarial relationship in the POW camp. Once again, this is where Jolie's restraint pays off. Again and again I expected, even longed for, the movie to take a "Hollywood" plot turn. Just as repeatedly I was answered with the unvarnished truth of how the events really happened.
My one complaint is that it is difficult to follow Zamperini's internal journey in the last third of the film. He has no buddy to chat with, no unguarded utterances to clue us in. Jolie does draw our attention to his gaze, with his fixed attention often giving clues. But we could have done with more help in that regard.
There was a teenage boy next to me at the screening. Early on he leaned forward in his seat, cross-legged, tensely alert. He watched the entire movie that way, leaning back only when it was finished and saying, "Awesome!"