Sappy sequel on war hero
“Unbroken: Path to Redemption,” one of the sappiest “sequels” ever made, continues the true story of the original, harrowing “Unbroken” directed by Angelina Jolie — and approaches a haunted aviator’s rocky journey to spiritual salvation as if it were a Hallmark movie of the week.
Louis Zamperini is a World War II hero who, after years of torturous imprisonment in Japan, has returned to his hometown of Torrance (Los Angeles County) to start his life over. But he has very serious issues — alcoholism and PTSD — and he is not dealing with them. This is fertile material, something that could be akin to “The Best Years of Our Lives,” but the movie lands in “Leave It to Beaver” territory.
It doesn’t take long for the emotions to ring hollow. When Louis (Samuel Hunt) meets Cynthia Applewhite (Merritt Patterson) in Florida, it’s allegedly love at first sight, but we gag as they trade cutesy one-liners. We have no idea what they see in each other, besides that he’s a dashing war hero and she’s a beautiful young woman. Every frame of their relationship — the heart of the film — comes off as phony.
Equally unconvincing is the inner turmoil of Louis, a situation made worse by some cheesy war flashbacks. Everything in this movie is sanitized and polite as possible: PTSD and alcoholism for a family values audience. The film didn’t have to be this way to achieve its Christian message; in fact, all the fake moments only undermine that message.
Director Harold Cronk gets more confident in the final scenes, when Louis attends a tent revival led by Billy Graham (his son Will Graham, convincing) and finds his spiritual bearings. But for the most part, we’ve already checked out — because the path to getting to that redemption has been so insufferable.
Cynthia Applewhite (Merritt Patterson) and Louis Zamperini (Samuel Hunt) find their good life haunted by Louis’ World War II experiences shown in cheesy flashbacks.