‘Un­bro­ken: Path to Re­demp­tion’ is a fussy cor­rec­tion to pre­de­ces­sor

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - MOVIES - TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE ( TNS) BY KATIE WALSH

“Didn’t we al­ready get an ‘Un­bro­ken’ movie?” you might ask, about “Un­bro­ken: Path to Re­demp­tion.” Is it even pos­si­ble to have a se­quel to a biopic? Faith-based film pro­duc­tion com­pany PureFlix thinks so.

“Un­bro­ken: Path to Re­demp­tion” serves as a bit of a coda to An­gelina Jolie’s 2014 film about the amaz­ing World War II sur­vival story of Olympic run­ner Louis Zam­perini, a mi­nor cor­rec­tive.

Both films take Laura Hil­len­brand’s bi­og­ra­phy as in­spi­ra­tion and adap­ta­tion ma­te­rial, but “Path to Re­demp­tion” picks up where Jolie’s film faded into text. All the truly dra­matic events from Zam­perini’s life like the 1936 Ber­lin Olympics, be­ing shot down in the Pa­cific and sur­viv­ing on a raft for 47 days, his time in a Ja­panese pris­oner of war camp and be­ing de­clared dead — all that is shoe­horned into an open­ing credit se­quence de­picted in news­pa­per clip­pings. For “Path to Re­demp­tion,” the ac­tion starts back home, af­ter the near-death ex­pe­ri­ences and hero’s welcome.

Writ­ten by Richard Fried­berg and Ken Hixon, di­rected by PureFlix jour­ney­man Harold Cronk, “Un­bro­ken: Path to Re­demp­tion” is a story about PTSD and the dif­fi­cul­ties of nor­mal life af­ter sur­viv­ing events that are very much not nor­mal. The highs and lows go away, and plopped back in sub­ur­ban Tor­rance, Cal­i­for­nia, war hero Louis (Sa­muel Hunt) finds him­self at loose ends and at the bot­tom of the bot­tle, the only way he knows how to cope with the ter­ri­fy­ing flash­backs he en­dures of his crash, the raft, the prison camp and the Ja­panese guard that tor­mented him, “Bird” Watan­abe (David Saku­rai).

There’s not all that much story to fill in the gaps left un­told by Jolie’s film, but “Path to Redemp- tion” ze­roes in on Louis’ strug­gles to adapt back to life, even af­ter get­ting mar­ried to his wife, Cynthia (Mer­ritt Pat­ter­son), and hav­ing a daugh­ter. It’s an end­less cy­cle of night­mares, drink­ing and ca­reer fail­ures un­til Louis inches closer to rock bot­tom.

It’s not un­til his wife con­vinces him to at­tend a tent re­vival hosted by Billy Graham (played by Graham grand­son and preacher Will Graham) does Louis see an­other way out.

The jour­ney from rock bot­tom to see­ing the light is one we’ve seen be­fore, and “Path to Re­demp­tion” doesn’t break the mold, re­ly­ing on melo­drama and stereo­types to get us where we’re go­ing. The hard­est thing for Louis to do is let his guard down, let go of his ego and ask for help in a hum­ble way.

But with all the fo­cus on the bot­tom, “Path to Re­demp­tion” misses a lot of the good stuff at the top. The film is book­ended with a trip back to Ja­pan in 1950, pho­tographed by Time mag­a­zine, where Louis demon­strates the power of for­give­ness, a tenet of his faith.

Hunt gives it his all as the tor­tured Louis, but Pat­ter­son is the heart and soul of the film, giv­ing a far more in­ter­est­ing per­for­mance as his long-suf­fer­ing wife. While “Un­bro­ken: Path to Re­demp­tion” pro­vides some of the best pro­duc­tion value for a PureFlix film to date, its fo­cus on one mo­ment in a life of in­cred­i­ble mo­ments makes it feel un­nec­es­sar­ily pro­longed, and a fussy cor­rec­tion to a film about Zam­perini that al­ready ex­ists.

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