Last night I had the privilege of attending a special screening for pastors of the new movie, Unbroken, that comes out in theatres nationwide on Christmas Day. In case you have not heard of the story, or read the New York Times bestselling book by Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit), Unbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini. He was the Olympic athlete who tore down a Nazi flag at the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany, and he was a World War II hero who survived 47 days on a life raft in the Pacific Ocean after his plane was shot down, followed by two years in Japanese POW camps.
The book and the movie focus largely on Louis' young life, athletic career, and predominantly, on his WWII survival story. However, I knew of Louis long before the book or the movie, and for a very different reason. He and my father both came to personal faith in Jesus Christ at the 1949 Billy Graham meetings in Los Angeles. (They are pictured above with Billy Graham, Cliff Barrows, and two other famous converts from those meetings: Stuart Hamblen and Harvey Fritz.)
It was the intervention of God in those Billy Graham meetings that enabled my father to leave a life in organized crime, and it was the start, for Louis Z, of overcoming post traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism. Both men, intriguingly, spent the remainder of their lives helping troubled youth find faith in Christ as well as a positive purpose for living. My father passed away in 1997 at the age of 78. Zamperini died earlier this year at the age of 96.
The book is well worth reading and the film is phenomenal as well. I cannot think of another film where I was so viscerally moved by watching; from the beginning of the movie I felt like I was in that plane with Louis, to the torture he endured as a POW where I felt like I was experiencing each blow. The film is a tribute to the seemingly invincible power of one man's spirit, with a nod at the end to the fact that it was the Holy Spirit that enabled Louis to not only survive but thrive and lead a productive and positive life for some 96 years.
This is not a movie for young children, but it is a film that I believe every person, teenager and up, ought to see. Among other things, it made me intensely grateful for the sacrifice of Louis Zamperini and countless other men and women who have served in our armed forces in order to preserve our freedom. If I had one, my hat would be off to Angelina Jolie for having the vision and the stick-to-it-iveness to make this excellent film about a truly extraordinary American and a devout Christian man who served his fellow human beings and his Lord so well.
Be sure to watch the trailer below and go to see the film in a movie theater near you on Christmas Day or shortly thereafter. I think you will be glad you did....