Friday, December 19, 2014

Movie Review: Unbroken

Universal Pictures
Releasing Christmas Day

What Is It All About?

From the studio:
"Unbroken" is an epic drama that follows the incredible life of Olympian and war hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) who, along with two other crewmen, survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash in WWII – only to be caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.

Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s (“Seabiscuit: An American Legend”) enormously popular book, "Unbroken" brings to the big screen Zamperini’s unbelievable and inspiring true story about the resilient power of the human spirit.

Starring alongside O’Connell are Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock as Phil and Mac – the airmen with whom Zamperini endured perilous weeks adrift in the open Pacific – Garrett Hedlund and John Magaro as fellow POWs who find an unexpected camaraderie during their internment, Alex Russell as Zamperini’s brother, Pete, and in his English-language feature debut, Japanese actor Miyavi as the brutal camp guard known only to the men as “The Bird.”

The film is produced and directed by Angelina Jolie, as well as Clayton Townsend (“This is 40″), Matthew Baer (“City by the Sea”) and Erwin Stoff (“The Day the Earth Stood Still”). Leading the accomplished behind-the-scenes crew in 11-time Oscar®-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins (“Skyfall”).

Academy Award® winners Joel and Ethan Coen (“No Country for Old Men”) rewrote the screenplay from earlier drafts by William Nicholson (“Les Miserables”) and Richard Lagravenese (“Freedom Writers”).

What Are the Highlights?
The book is the best autobiography I ever have read. Zamperini was an amazing man of courage and determination. He also became a follower of Jesus. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend you do.
This movie is a faithful retelling of Zamperini's life, the events of which could have made a number of books or movies: 
  • His troubled youth, when he was bullied and resorted to drinking and stealing. His brother gave him purpose by encouraging him to focus on athletics, specifically running.
  • Zamperini represented the United States in the Olympics, and was witness to Jesse Owens triumphing in the shadow of Hitler's Berlin. Zamperini himself was poised to be the firt runner to break the 4-minute mile prior to entering military service in World War II.
  • Shot down in enemy waters, Zamperini  and a crewmate form the plane where he was a bombadier survived for 47 days in a life raft (a world record in itself) before being taken prisoner of war by the Japanese.
  • In prison camp Zamperini survived subhuman conditions and cruel, harshly violent treatment by the camp's commander.
  • Following his release and return to the United States, Zamperini fought post traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism and became a Christian. He eventually returned to Japan to run the torch in the Olympic games and met with his captors (except for the Bird, who refused to meet with him) and forgave his captors.
All of that, to varying degrees is included in the film, which is no small feat. Some of the incidents are depicted as flashbacks. The last part about his dedicating his life to the Lord and forgiving his enemies is added as a postscript as the film closes.

Overall, it's a watchable, if not fully engaging movie. For me, there was a matter-of-fact feeling to the storytelling and to O'Connell's portrayal. They portrayed what happened, but I'm not sure Zamperini's motivations ever were clear. He's depicted almost as a Christ figure himself, taking punishment for his fellow prisoners and being forced to bear a plank strongly resembling the cross. He shows amazing resilience and integrity (he chooses to return to the harsh environment of the prisoner of war camp rather than betray the United States), but we're never sure
from where he receives his strength and character. In the book, we have  a sense of God's watching out for Louie and that Louie finally makes serving God top priority in his life.

In addition, the violence and torture in the camps is depicted, but The Bird is portrayed as creepy and almost feminine -- not as the psychotic evil creature I got from the book.

The film offers a nice chance to introduce folks to an amazing hero and a wonderful man of God -- someone who spoke his faith through his actions. The film's violence is hard to watch, but necessary if you want to have some idea of what it was Louis was able to forgive (even if we don't really know why when that's mentioned in the postscript that he chose forgiveness over revenge.) Another plus is that this is a regular Hollywood movie with respected creatives -- not a "Christian" movie, so it will have far reaching capability.
-- Lauren Yarger

A few words form Louis Zamperini who died this year:
  • “The Bible speaks of the Word of God as a seed. Sometimes it's planted by the wayside, and nothing grows there. Sometimes it's sown among the thorns and represents the person who makes the decision an then goes back to his old life of bars and chasing women or whatever. A third seed is sown among the rocks. There's sand and dirt between the rocks, and when it rains you'll see a stalk of green coming up. But on the first day with sunshine it wilts because there is no room for roots. The fourth seed is planted on fertile soil, and finally it takes hold and has a chance to grow and live. That's what happened to me.”

  • “The one who forgives never brings up the past to that person's face. When you forgive, it's like it never happened. True forgiveness is complete and total.”

  • “It was all in His hands now - as it had always has been.”

You can share your own "unbroken" story here: More information about the film here: Information about the book here:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Kathie Lee Gifford on Faith, Generosity

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Kathie Lee Gifford supported the Salvation Army last week in Harlem.
Photo courtesy of the Salvation Army.

Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."



Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at

Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light ( and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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