Dear Angelina Jolie,
Let me say right at the beginning that I appreciate your talents as an actress and a film director. And I want to thank you for putting the amazing story of Louis Zamperini to film.
Over the past 15 years or so, I have heard snippets of the Louis Zamperini story. Track star. World War 2 veteran. POW. But it was not until Laura Hillenbrand’s wonderful book Unbroken came out that I got the whole story of Louis’ life. It truly is an amazing story – one worth telling in many ways and forms.
When I heard that Louis’ story was going to be released in movie form, I was excited. I don’t go to many movies, but this was one that I was planning to pay to see in the theater. I remember telling my wife that just a week or two ago.
Since then I have read some reviews from advance screenings and have changed my mind about seeing the movie in the theater. Although the reviews I read praised the movie, the acting and the story-telling, they also make it clear that you and the writers chose to only tell part of Louis’ story. Once again, Hollywood seems to have an aversion to really telling the story of someone with genuine, transformative Christian faith.
In fact, I even would say that choosing “Unbroken” as the title of your film was disingenuous. Yes, Louis did persevere in many areas of his life. He endured in his life as a track star. He endured in the military. He endured weeks marooned at sea. He endured years as a POW in a Japanese prison camp, undergoing all manner of abuse. By all outward appearances, Louis Zamperini was unbroken by all those experiences. And that is the story you tell – Louis returning home to be reunited with his family. It is a wonderful story of the triumph of the human will in the face of cruelty and evil.
While Louis returned home appearing to be unbroken, that was a lie. As the next few years of Louis’s life proved, he was broken. He endured all those traumatic and terrible things during the war, only for his brokenness to be made apparent on his return. He suffered terrible nightmares – when he closed his eyes, his prison guards were waiting for him in his dreams. Running, which once gave him joy, was now joyless. He started drinking heavily. He raged at his wife. He exhibited all the symptoms of what we understand now as P.T.S.D., which can break a person from the inside out.
One day, all of that began to change for Louis. It was not because of greatness of his will overcame his inner demons. It was not because a wise counselor set him free from his struggles. No, change came to Louis’ life in the person of Jesus Christ. The brokenness the world around him could not heal was healed, day by day, bit by bit, by the transforming work of Jesus Christ in Louis. That is the real story of unbrokenness – that Someone could take a human being who is truly broken from the inside and rebuild him, heal him and put his unbrokenness on display for a whole nation to see. The real story is that a man could be healed to such an extent that he could return to Japan and express his forgiveness to the guard who beat and abused him. That is a story of hope, a story of real change, a story of the complete transformation of a life. It is a story that is increasingly needed in our dark days of terrorism, economic troubles and racial tension. We need that kind of hope. We need that kind of change. We need the kind of power to forgive. That is the story I wish you would have told. Unfortunately for me, there is too much in Unbroken that is left unspoken, much to my personal disappointment.