The amazing new film Unbroken, Path to Redemption begins where Angelina Jolie’s 2014 movie Unbroken ends. It presents Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini’s intense struggles and journey in finding faith and a relationship with Jesus Christ when he returned to the U.S. This heart-grabbing movie with good production values, has good acting and a strong ending.
After Zamperini’s return from imprisonment in Japan during World War II, he struggles with symptoms of PTSD that lead him to alcoholism, but he finds faith in Christ and transforming victory over intense struggles. The movie is dedicated to the late Billy Graham who is portrayed by his grandson, Will Graham, in the movie.
In the captivating foreword of Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling book, Unbroken: Path to Redemption, she writes, “When I first met Louie Zamperini, on a telephone call on a sun-spilled afternoon more than 15 years ago, I was in search of a good story. As he recounted the many years of his monumentally eventful and unlikely life, I knew I’d found no mere good story. I’d found perhaps the most extraordinary life history I’d ever heard. I marveled at every turn of it: the hellion youth; the superlative speed that carried him to the Olympics and an encounter with Hitler; the harrowing hours as a World War II bombardier; a plane crash; 47 days and 2,000 miles as a raft-bound castaway; leaping sharks; a typhoon; starvation; capture; an epic struggle as an enslaved prisoner of war; years entangled in the terrors of PTSD; and a final, beautiful moment of redemption. This was the stuff of a legend.”
Laura continues, “As I hung up the phone that day, the first of innumerable days I would spend in Louie’s company, there was something that resonated even more deeply than the story I’d heard. It was the man who’d lived it. What made Louie truly singular, and what made his life relevant to all of us, was not the series of events that comprised his life, but the way in which he met them, summoning strength amid suffering, joy amid loss, forgiveness in the face of cruelty, and hope that knew no master. To him, his odyssey was a gift, a lesson he could teach in how to endure the bruises of life and emerge in happiness. His laughter was irrepressible because he looked about him and saw only blessings. The loveliest thing about this wondrous man was that he wished for all of us to see in our own lives what he saw in his. His story was his gift to us.”
She concludes the foreword by saying, “It was a grand privilege and indescribable pleasure to know Louie Zamperini and to narrate his life. And it is with happy anticipation that I await the world’s reception of UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION, a marvelous film about him that captures not just the drama of his years, but the brave, grand-hearted and profoundly inspiring man he was.”
Sonoma Christian Home had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Luke Zamperini, only son of Louis Zamperini, speaker, and producer for Unbroken, Path to Redemption.
SCH: Your father was an amazingly strong man who was an Olympic champion, who survived an air crash into the sea with a harrowing 47 days on a raft, and 2 years of torture in a Japanese prison, but he could not overcome what we now know as PTSD. How did his allowing Christ to be his savior and Lord overcome the PTSD?
LZ: My father was naturally defiant. He was a survivalist and prepared to endure challenges. He could fix about anything, but he could not fix the PTSD. He could survive and endure much, but the Bird (Japanese prison commander) began to beat him and his tormenting dreams with the Bird began his last year in prison and continued after he was freed. He was at the end of his rope when Billy Graham in the tent revival meeting referred to being at the end of one’s rope. My father remembered a prayer (that if God saved him that he would serve him) that he had prayed on the life raft. Then when my father received Christ he was instantly and miraculously freed from PTSD symptoms, had the desire to forgive, and began to experience the power of our great God. My father had no more nightmares after that.
SCH: What are important lessons you have learned from your father?
LZ: He was a great father and man of faith. He was a boy scout and learned survival skills. He was a great outdoorsman. He taught me how to be resourceful, to plan ahead, to have contingency plans, to prepare…He taught me how to cook, sew, to be self-sufficient, and how to fix things.
SCH: What important lessons have you learned about God through your father’s story?
LZ: I have learned that miracles do happen. For example, recently, the Malibu fires stopped at our friends’ balcony. It was a miracle. I have learned through my father that miracles validated Christ’s message. My dad experienced many miracles. When his airplane went down, he was wrapped in cables and passed out as he went into the sea but found himself rising to the top of the water. On the raft, they were without water 7 days, when he prayed the prayer he would frequently pray (that if God saved him that he would serve him) and then saw a rain cloud coming towards the raft…
SCH: How can anyone find Christ’s ultimate strength and power in our weakness?
LZ: By receiving Christ as Lord and Savior, we can all experience His healing power.
SCH: How has this story been used to help others with trauma and recovery?
LZ: There are many resources on website, https://unbrokenfilm.com/resources. Besides movies, books, devotionals, sermon guides…there are resources for the military, educational resources (including curricula for private and public schools), and forgiveness resources. Forgiveness is a huge factor. We also continue to have our Victory Camps for at-risk kids.
Universal Studios produced Angelina Jolie’s movie that did not tell the story of Louis Zamperini’s final redemption. However, ultimately Universal Studios also produced this second movie. It was good that the two movies were produced, giving adequate time for the story of Louis Zamperini’s greatest battle and redemption.
Based on Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book, Unbroken, Path to Redemption begins where the hit movie Unbroken concludes, as it presents the rest of the record that follows the fantastic true accounts of Olympian and World War II hero Louis Zamperini. The rest of the true story begins when the war ends and the greatest battle to date grips Louis.
When after his physical freedom, Louis is entrapped and haunted by nightmares of his torturous torment in a Japanese prison, he meets Cynthia, a young woman who captures his eye and heart. They marry; but Louis is in an imprisoning, wrathful quest for revenge which drives him deeper into despair, eventually putting the couple on the brink of divorce. However, Cynthia attends Billy Graham’s 1949 Los Angeles Crusade, where she finds faith in God and a renewed commitment to her marriage and her husband. Now, her most fervent prayer is for God to help Louis find the peace and forgiveness he so desperately needs.
Unbroken, Path to Redemption brings to life the rest of this powerful real-life story of forgiveness, redemption, and amazing grace.
Louis Zamperini, who passed away on July 2, 2014 at the age of 97, was victoriously celebrated as a true American hero. This former Olympian, whose long, incredible and inspiring life has been described as one of the greatest stories of triumph in the 20th century, lived through and beyond what most could comprehend. His tale of crippling despair trumped by indomitable will and final redemption as Christ’s power gave him total, eternal freedom continues to serve as a message of hope for the millions who have been affected and inspired by his journey.
His compelling story began more than a century ago. As a youth in Torrance, California, the youngest son of Italian immigrants, Louis was an incorrigible delinquent, breaking into homes, stealing from shops and brawling with anyone who dared challenge this untamable boy. As a teenager, with the persistent encouragement of his older brother, Pete, Louis turned his life around by channeling defiant energy into a amazing talent for running.
As he broke record after record across the nation, the 19-year-old “Torrance Tornado” qualified for the 1936 Berlin Olympics and surprised everyone whom he encountered, including his famous teammate Jesse Owens and the evil Adolf Hitler, who almost veered mankind toward global destruction:
When World War II broke out, like many of his generation, the young student from University of Southern California, who had come within seconds of breaking the four-minute mile, put his dreams on hold and enlisted in the service. As an Army Air Corps bombardier, 2nd Lt. Zamperini embarked upon numerous missions across the Pacific. This was daunting and approximately 50 percent of his fellow airmen wouldn’t make it through the war. In April 1943, Louis’ defective B-24 Liberator, the Green Hornet, on a rescue mission in the South Pacific, suffered engine failure and crashed into the sea, killing eight of the 11 crew members upon impact.
Louis and his Green Hornet’s two fellow survivors drifted in a six-feet-long by two-feet-wide raft in the open Pacific for many weeks. Surviving rounds of strafing by a Japanese bomber, omnipresent sharks, hunger, dehydration and exhaustion and more. Louis and one mate lasted for a total of 47 days, a record in the annals of history for survivors on a raft. They ultimately drifted 2,000 miles to an atoll in the Marshall Islands, with the remnants of a typhoon carrying them to shore.
Just as they sighted land and were beginning to float toward it, they were captured by the Japanese navy and imprisoned in the first of what would be several POW camps. During more than two years of torturous captivity, Louis and his fellow prisoners were starved, as well as mentally and physically abused beyond comprehension. Louis was singled out by a prison commander named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, known to the men as “The Bird,” who would commit particularly sadistic acts of mind games and deplorable brutality.
Louis survived these inhumane ordeals across the most severe regions of war-torn Japan and learned, on August 20, 1945, (two weeks after the 9,000-pound bomb called Little Boy annihilated Hiroshima), that the Allied prisoners were free men and that the war was over. Laura Hillenbrand writes in the definitive Louis Zamperini biography, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption: “In the midst of running, celebrating men, Louis stood on wavering legs, emaciated, sick and dripping wet. In his tired mind, two words were repeating themselves over and over: ‘I’m free! I’m free! I’m free!’”
The veteran who had survived so much returned home to Southern California, but his life was forever changed. Louis was plagued by nightmares and a crippling mental disorder that would not be classified as such until decades later as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Like the countless heroes who returned from the far reaches of cruel detention camps, Louis found post-war life a monumental struggle. For four years after his internment, he battled crippling anxiety, alcohol abuse and demonic nightmares every time he went to sleep.
However, after Louis and his new bride, Cynthia, heard a young preacher by the name of Reverend Billy Graham speak in September 1949, he understood his need to be forgiven and to forgive others. With his newfound Christian faith, Louis’ life turned completely around. Then Louis devoted himself to spreading a message of faith, fortitude and forgiveness. He even went to Japan and to offer forgiveness to the prison guards who had starved him and beat him senseless. Only “The Bird” refused to meet with him.
Louis’ story had all the makings of an unforgettable movie. Universal Pictures had long been interested in his life. In 1957, the studio acquired the rights to Louie’s book Devil at My Heels. It was planned as a vehicle for Tony Curtis, but the project was shelved before a script was drafted.
In 1998, a CBS Sports documentary presented Louis’ life and breathed life back into the project. When producer Matthew Baer watched the piece, he was tremendously affected by what he saw, and began on what would be a 16-year quest to get a film made. He met with Louis and his family, bringing Louis’ story back to Universal Pictures because the studio remained tied to the rights. The studio was once again interested in producing a movie of this epic saga. Several screenplays were commissioned at the time, but at the time no director signed on to the project.
In 2002, however, there was a turn of events. Louis Zamperini and best-selling author Laura Hillenbrand’s eight-year journey together began, when the author finished Seabiscuit: An American Legend. She wrote Louis a letter and he wrote back.
The more they communicated, the more Hillenbrand was fascinated by what she learned about Louis Zamperini. She asked if she could write her next book about him. Louis agreed, although he had written his own story years before. He wanted to spread the word of reconciliation as far as he could.
During their collaboration, which spanned more than 75 phone interviews and exhaustive globe-spanning research (supported by approximately 400 endnotes), Hillenbrand and Zamperini agreed not to meet in person until the book was published. The author wanted to envision Louis as the young troublemaker whose spirit would transform him into a hero for the ages. Further, Louis was busy with a charitable schedule and speaking engagements that would seem impossible for men half his age.
Published in 2010, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption became a runaway bestseller. It spent more than 185 weeks (15 of those in the top position) on The New York Times hardcover bestseller list. Among its many accolades, Unbroken was awarded Best Nonfiction Book of the Year by Time magazine. It also won the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year Award for Biography.
After years of having Louis’ amazing story turned down by other financiers, Baer, encouraged by the public’s embrace of Hillenbrand’s book, brought Unbroken back to Universal for consideration. The studio acquired the book in December 2010, and its success facilitated plans for the project to head toward production. In 2014, UNBROKEN was released. It earned $163 million worldwide at the box office.
“I’d made it this far and refused to give up because, all my life, I had always finished the race.”
“A part of you still believes you can fight and survive, no matter what your mind knows. Where there’s still life, there’s still hope. What happens is up to God.”
He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore. I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.…
II Corinthians 12:9-10