By Emily Neelon
“Stop squeezing my hand so hard,” my friend Ashley whispers to me as we sit in the dark, crowded confines of the movie theater while “Unbroken” plays on the screen.
“I can’t help it,” I whisper back, grasping her hand as if it’s the life raft pictured on the screen, my only means of survival on the intrepid seas, similar to the experience of the characters fighting for their lives before me.
Directed by Angelina Jolie, “Unbroken” was an incredible film of perseverance under extreme circumstances. Recounting the true story of Olympic runner and American veteran Louis Zamperini, the film depicts Zamperini’s transformation from delinquent teenager and Italian immigrant, to a prisoner-of-war in Japan during World War II.
I may have just been sitting in the theater that Sunday night, but my mind was consumed by the story playing out before me. Every wave that slammed against the flimsy, yellow raft Zamperini and his fellow plane crash survivors clung to sent shivers down my back. Every punch striking Zamperini’s face while he was held captive brought color to my own cheeks. Every tear shed by the prisoners of war coincided with the tears threatening to spill from my own eyes.
I identified with Zamperini’s passion for running, the way he found solace and strength through the miles of land he covered by foot. As his body began to deteriorate under the harsh conditions he endured, I understood the pain of being physically unable to run, of having legs unwilling to close the distance of the final stretch to the finish line.
And I resonated with the determination to recover and push past the disabilities Zamperini was burdened by. I understood, through my own experiences with injuries, his devotion to the sport, and his reluctance to let it slip away.
“Unbroken,” with its creative cinematography and incredible cast of characters, has broken into my list of favorite movies. I left the theater, tissues in hand, and with an enlightened perspective on military combat. By bringing an event I had read in my history textbooks to life, the film succeeded in making me understand the implications of war and relations among the world’s greatest political powers.
Emily Neelon is the Faith and Fellowship Editor for The Beacon. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Neelonsays.