'Unbroken' shows us a spirit left whole after suffering endured by Louis Zamperini

By Jerry Circelli

North Texas Catholic

1/8/2015

 

There’s a gift waiting for all of us at movie theaters nationwide. Titled “Unbroken,” it is ultimately given to us courtesy of the late Louis "Louie" Zamperini, who shows us by example that faith, family, friendship, love, and forgiveness can help us through life’s greatest challenges.

This is not a spoiler-alert, only documented fact: U.S. soldier Louie Zamperini, a former Olympic athlete, miraculously survived in a raft at sea for 47 days after a plane crash during WWII. Near death, he was plucked from shark-infested waters by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp, where he endured relentless suffering.

Arrive early, sit near the front of the theatre and then fasten your seat belt. You’ll be in for a bumpy ride at times, but you won’t want to miss out on the cinematography that puts us in the boots of this true war hero.

It’s not dramatic special effects, however, that make this movie memorable. Instead, it’s the journey through life with Zamperini that draws us so close to his story that we feel we’ve known him all our lives.

Perhaps it’s because we have, in fact, known someone like him. There’s a little bit of Louie Zamperini in all of us. We can relate to the youngster early in the movie. In our youth, who hasn’t pushed the envelope between right and wrong, let the words of our parish priest pass through one ear and out the other, taken family for granted, or felt sorry for ourselves?

Many of us have gone through our youth and young adult life much like Zamperini, aware — but just barely so — that family and friends truly care for and love us. How many times do you think your mother prayed for you in your life? How powerful were your mother’s prayers? How supportive has a brother or sister been for you? How has God continued to love you when you have somewhat forgotten Him? Like Zamperini, you might not have thought much about all that earlier in your life.

That’s where our lives and Zamperini’s run parallel and we can relate. It’s when Zamperini encounters what seems like the impossible — time, after time, after time — that we wonder if we could ever be like him. Could we have his resolve? Would we have his faith? Could we be as strong? Are we capable of the same Cardinal Virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Courage? Could we ever forgive our enemies the way Zamperini did?

That’s what makes this movie so powerful. We truly hope we could live our lives and deal with life’s greatest challenges in the same manner as Zamperini. At some point, we must all bear our cross. Will our faith be strong enough to carry us through? Zamperini gives us hope.

Again, that’s the power of “Unbroken.” What’s remarkable is that Hollywood has given us yet another movie in which a character is inspired by Christian faith and strengthened by family. Who knew?

And who knew that Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie would direct and produce such a film, based on the book by the same name by bestselling author Laura Hillenbrand?

Jolie could have shown us more about how Zamperini grew closer to God after the war and the process that led him to forgive his captors. But she does introduce moviegoers to Louie and his remarkable story. People will likely want to learn more about the great Louie Zamperini after they see this movie and embark on their own journey of discovery about his unbreakable spirit and renewed faith in Christ.

So could we ever be like Zamperini? He was barely listening as a child, when his Catholic parish priest said these words about God in a sermon:

“He sent his son Jesus, not to wage war on the sins of man, but to forgive them. Forgive the sin, smile on the sinner, accept the darkness. Live through the night. Love thine enemy.”

Before he died last July at the age of 97, Zamperini told us he later heard those words loudly and clearly.

“Forgiveness must be complete,” Zamperini said. “And that’s what I do. Instead of hating them, I pray for them. That’s the secret of life.”

“Unbroken” opened in theaters nationwide Dec. 25 and was ranked the third highest earning movie for the last weekend’s numbers available at the time of this post. 

There’s a gift waiting for all of us at movie theaters nationwide. Titled “Unbroken,” it is ultimately given to us courtesy of the late Louis "Louie" Zamperini, who shows us by example that faith, family, friendship, love, and forgiveness can help us through life’s greatest challenges.

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