It only took 17 years of them trying, after signing a deal with Universal, having Laura Hillenbrand's bestseller, going through a range of screenwriters and different production efforts, but this afternoon I finally got the chance to see, Unbroken, the movie about Louis Zamperini.
It’s pretty easy to say how good it is and wonderfully made, with elegance and depth. But on a personal level, since I've mentioned that I'm good friends with Mick Garris, who was Louie's son-in-law, and of course his wife Cythia, Louie's daughter, what kept hitting me throughout the film is that I can’t imagine how they made it through in one piece. Even I, at several points thinking about the two of them watching it, got choked up.
It's a brutal movie much of the time -- but I didn't think problematically so. And ultimately, that's the point of the story and the redemption, and it's all there in the novel, and more. It’s not gruesome torture, but more a case of beatings, and at time relentlessly in his harrowing experience in Japanese prison camps during World War II. (Plus some harsh sequences when lost at sea for 47 days.) The audience was packed and there no walk outs. So, it clearly wasn't an issue for people there.
(I was sitting next to a Japanese-American woman, and her elderly mother. The mother did leave at one point, though returned. I don't know if she walked out briefly because it was too hard to take...or if she did just have to temporarily leave. Her daughter did seem solicitous to her though. When the film was over, I overhead the older woman say that, yes, the movie was quite hard at times, though very good.)
Speaking of the audience, the film got applause at the end, and half stayed all the way through the credits.
Some of the film dragged in a couple parts, because there are parts of his life that were long and solitary. And the film cuts off long before the book does, following Louie’s return home after the war, where he deals with the difficulties of his experience. It’s clearly an important part of his life and the book, but I can understand why they ended it when they did. It’s a far more cathartic movie ending. And the end is very cathartic. And for reasons I won't explain, has a joyous way it goes out.
Angelina Jolie's direction is seriously impressive, as is 11-time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins' great cinematography. And British actor Jack O'Connell does a wonderful job playing Louis Zamperini.
The movie aside, I love certain aspects of credits, and one of my favorites here was seeing Louis Zamerini and Laura Hillenbrand listed together and solely as advisers. And I love it, too, when I see friends in the credits, so Mick Garris as executive producer was a high spot for me, too. Hey, what can I say? I have my priorities.
For everyone to have patiently pursued this for so long, and have something this good be the result is a joy. I’m glad that Louie got to see the whole process and what it would be. And what a tribute to have carrying on.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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