Unbroken film review – Angelina Jolie’s tribute to a great spirit

The film, Unbroken, the epic story of Louis “Louie” Zamperini, was released this Christmas Day. Based on Unbroken Film Trailerthe eponymous and gripping book by Laura Hillenbrand, Angelina Jolie’s inaugural film as a director is a worthy film to see. As stated at the beginning of the film, this is a true story … that is very hard to believe, it is so gruelling and impressive. This 136-minute film was clearly shot with the Oscars in mind, in that there are a number of “big moments” that are portrayed with intentional big screen drama. On the positive side, though, for a wartime film, Jolie did not overplay the violence. It’s a war film, written by a woman, directed by a woman, that shows a man’s war with pathos and intensity. As such, my wife and daughter, as well as my son and myself, enjoyed the film. Neither my wife nor daughter had read the book, so they had no attachment to the book version. And that’s okay, as far as I am concerned, because the purpose of the film is both entertainment and educational. The film does a good job of portraying the emotional journey of Zamperini, played by the English actor, Jack O’Connell. Zamperini’s stout resistance in the face of sadistic treatment is credible and inspiring.

“If you can take it, you can make it”

The POW experience in Japanese prison camps

Unbroken film review defianceFor someone who has read some 300 books on this part of WWII and has interviewed over 100 ex-POWs, the film, Unbroken, does a standup job of portraying just enough of the inhumane treatment. It glosses over some of the daily miseries, such as the ever-present insects, the menace of tropical disease and the paucity of food and clean water. However, between the missing finger nails, the wretched forced labor, the harrowing punishments imposed on Zamperini and the scene of the hundred punches, the execrable POW treatment is evident. The 30% to 40% death rate in certain Japanese prison camps is understated, since none of the prisoners around Zamperini ever die during their internment.

Telling history

The film, Unbroken, does not portray the Japanese captors in a favorable light. As mentioned above, there is enough grim treatment in the film to capture the essence of the cruelty. That said, there is no gratuitous violence portrayed, whereas it is well known that there were miscellaneous bayonettings, beheadings and beatings bestowed by the Japanese captors, whose Bushido code designated prisoners as less than worthy. Unfortunately, the Japanese have never truly recognized their responsibility nor officially apologized. There is a current movement in Japan to re-write history and whitewash this chapter of the war. In point of fact, there is a movement underway to ban the film in Japan. Read this article in The Telegraph (UK). This is deeply unsatisfying. According to historian Rudolph J Rummel, in his research, “Statistics of democide: Genocide and Mass Murder since 1900 Transaction,” about 10,700 US POWs were killed by the Japanese in captivity, including my grandfather (see the Smithsonian article by Gilbert King). An appalling total of 570,000 POWs were killed in Japanese captivity — Chinese 400,000, French Indochina 30,000, Philippines 27,300, Netherlands 25,000, France 14,000, UK 13,000, UK colonies 11,000 & Australia 8,000. (Source: Wikipedia).

If you so agree, please do sign this petition to encourage the film Unbroken not to be banned in Japan. (Via Change.org)


And read the book

Unbroken Film reviewIf you have not read the book, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, I most strongly recommend it. The hardcover version has been 180 consecutive weeks on the NYT best-seller list. The paperback version is now available for $9.60. It has been translated into 29 languages.

What did you think of this Unbroken film review? What did you think of the film? Please do let us know your thoughts!

The Idiot Cycle by Emmanuelle Schick Garcia – a review

I had the good fortune to be invited to the premier screening of the documentary film,”The Idiot Cycle,” directed and produced by Emmanuelle Schick Garcia. Presented at a private viewing, and in the company of many journalists, the 96-minute film received a robust round of applause.  At its conclusion, we were allowed a lengthy and candid Q&A session with Ms Garcia.

Emmanuelle Schick Garcia is a Spanish-Canadian film director, with a most charming accent from the South of France (when speaking in French).   The idea of the film took root when Ms Garcia’s mother was struck down with cancer and she then found out that at least one of the parents of each her twenty closest friends had also come down with cancer.  Clearly, more than coincidence was at work.

The Idiot Cycle, which took 10 years to make, documents how the rise of cancer can be related to the work of a number of chemical companies, such as Monsanto, Dow Chemical, BASF, etc.  Among the core issues, the film puts the focus more on the cause rather than the cure.  One of the major revelations for me was the fact that, in some cases, the companies that produce the chemicals used in the fertilizers are also pharmaceutical companies, providing the medication to cure the cancers that the same chemicals are (alleged) to cause. According to the film’s site, AstraZeneca is a perfect example.  AstraZeneca is the result of a merger between Astra AG (Sweden) and Zeneca Group of the UK (second biggest maker of cancer drugs behind Bristol-Meyers Squibb).  “Zeneca is also maker of fungicides and herbicides (including the carcinogen acetochlor) and owns the third-largest source of cancer-causing pollution in the U.S. – a chemical plant in Perry, Ohio. In 1996 this facility emitted 53,000 pounds of recognized carcinogens into the air.”

The other revelation was the fact that the Canadian government was not interested in participating in the film.  Any politicians that were interviewed for the film were edited out because of a tongue-tied lack of pertinency.  The fact that the cited chemical companies chose not to participate is more understandable.  However, the government’s role is to protect its people.  Seemingly, the film underscores how economics are the driving force.

If The Idiot Cycle still has not found any broad distribution (yet), due to its sensitive nature, it is certainly a film worth seeing.  The film can be rented for 4.99 euros here at Japanese Pop Songs.  In a new twist on community film watching, you can also rent the film for up to five friends in one single transaction.

Here is a trailer of the film via YouTube:

If the embedded link to the trailer disappears (which seems to be the case), you can go directly view the trailer on YouTube here.

N.B. Emmanuelle Schick is prepared to provide viewings of the film on school/university campuses for free.