Unbroken 2014 (PG-13)

 This film is an incredible tale of resistance and determination that is based upon a true story. It is refreshing to see a story based upon the Pacific Theater since the overwhelming preponderance of WWII movies are set in the European Theater.  A talented Olympic runner joins the Army. At first things go well, but then a foolish officer sends a perfectly healthy crew out in a plane that has been cannibalized for parts. Naturally the plane crashes and the crew is killed or captured by the Japanese.  The hero then spends years in a POW camp where the Japanese torture him and use him for slave labor.  His will is never broken, however, hence the title of the film.  For a war movie, it is light on the graphic violence and cussing.  The story is the most important element here.  It was also nice to watch a WWII movie that was not an F-word marathon, for once.  The movie was also relatively free from anachronisms compared to other films of this genre.  A Japanese flag that is shown in one wartime scene was not used until after the war, and there are a few errors in costumes, military equipment and markings, but none that interfere with the story.  The only major flaw that I saw was that the prisoners were not thin and scraggly enough to really look like long term POW’s.  There was also no reason for the Japanese officer at the POW camp to speak to his men in English. 

This film has some educational value because most students today are unfamiliar with the horrors endured by Japanese POW’s during their captivity.   This often gets neglected in the effort to denounce Japanese-American determent during the war.  This film helps to put things more into perspective.  While both acts were wrong, clearly American POW’s (including women and civilians) were treated much worse by Japan.  The film is quite long, so I would find it very hard to justify showing it in its entirety in a classroom setting.  It is also quite intense, so I would not show it to an immature group of students.  The use of a few well-chosen clips would suffice to show how bad things were in a Japanese POW camp, even though primary source accounts make it clear that things were even worse than the way things are depicted in the film.  They mention much more about debilitating disease like dysentery, rickets, and scurvy.  They also go into much greater detail about the systematic and ritual humiliations that prisoners had to endure.  The one thing that the movie points out best that agrees with the primary sources is that when one loses the will to live, he dies much faster.  The POWs called this “giveupitis”.  Clearly, the film’s hero did not succumb to this illness.

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