Unbroken

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Unbroken Movie Poster Image
Intense WWII biopic is inspiring but doesn't go deep enough.
  • PG-13
  • 2014
  • 137 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 26 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The main character's intense determination helps him make it to the Olympics and, later, to survive as a POW, despite unbearably horrible circumstances. This is definitely a story about perseverance and triumph in the face of adversity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Zamperini managed to survive 47 days stranded at sea and then two years in a Japanese POW camp because of his grit, resilience, and unbreakable will. Other characters are shown deteriorating, both physically and mentally.

Violence

Plenty of war-related violence. Early scenes show aerial combat, with planes and crewmen getting shot up and exploding. Then a trio of men is lost at sea in a small raft, struggling to survive; they take on sharks with their bare hands. The last act takes place in a Japanese POW camp run by a brutal sadist. The prisoners are beaten with sticks, threatened with swords, given meager rations, and forced into slave labor. They're also forced to undress; their bare bottoms are shown, and they cover their genitals with their hands.

Sex

Non-sexual nudity includes a scene in which prisoners are forced to undress, and viewers see their bare bottoms.

Language

Brief profanity includes a partial "f--k," "s--t," "damn," and "ass."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A teen boy takes swigs from liquor disguised in milk bottles. Some characters smoke cigarettes (accurate for the era). Adult soldiers drink beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Unbroken is Angelina Jolie's affecting, inspiring biopic about Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell), an Olympic athlete who finds himself tested all sorts of ways during World War II, culminating in a two-year stint in a Japanese prison camp. As expected based on the source material (the script was adapted from Laura Hillenbrand's book about Zamperini's life), there are plenty of scenes showing torturous abuse, including beatings, verbal harangues, and psychological attacks; some of it is quite difficult to watch. Aerial combat footage includes explosions, and Zamperini's time adrift on the ocean is also intense; at one point, he and his boatmates take on sharks with their bare hands. Language is infrequent and mild, but some early scenes portray a teenager smoking and drinking. Families may want to check out Hillenbrand's young adult adaptation of her bestselling book.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBestPicture1996 December 26, 2014

Zamperini's story is incredible, the movie is rough to watch

Not rough in terms of being a really bad movie, but the endless, pervasive suffering Louis Zamperini was forced to undertake. The movie is at least, at the very... Continue reading
Adult Written byMama Bear January 1, 2015

Good but not great

My husband and I went to see Unbroken with our 17 yo and 10 yo. I read the book a couple of years ago and was fascinated with Lou Zamperini's story. The... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byChristopherGraham January 24, 2015

"Unbroken" by Christopher Graham

This is a film that lacks excellent detail, inspiration, experience, and a superb script. This film stars Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Miyavi, Garrett... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byJflores14 December 28, 2014

Beautiful story of the power of faith and forgiveness

This film was incredible and intense. While disturbing in nature, the end result was extremely beautiful. Best suited for teens and adults. CONTENT: violence(7... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on Lauren Hillenbrand's same-named book, UNBROKEN tells the true story of Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell), an Olympic athlete who impressed the world in the 1936 Olympics by running the final lap of the 5,000-meter event in a blazing 56 seconds. And later, after surviving 47 days adrift in the Pacific after a plane crash, he became a POW in Japan for two years. Remarkable and resilient, Zamperini survives the meanest challenges of life, including being stranded on a raft with two other crewmen, only to be picked up by a Japanese naval ship and spirited behind enemy lines, where he's beaten and tortured.

Is it any good?

This movie will undoubtedly leave audiences with nothing but admiration for the strong, noble Zamperini, and for this alone, it's worth watching. It's also notable for its lush cinematography and disciplined storytelling, which doesn't rely overly on swelling music and other tricks to make audiences feel with a capital F.

But for a film that does so much, Unbroken still falls short in some aspects. A footnote at the end hints at incomparable kindness that Zamperini bestowed upon his enemies, and yet this is told in words rather than images. It's a pity. And though it's clear Zamperini survives partly by holding on to the lessons his brother gave him -- words that echo through his head and that the audience hears -- it feels like there's much more depth to him that's left unexplored. And what of his pain? The film hints that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder of some kind; completely understandable, given the circumstances, but nothing makes a man even more unbroken than to have survived all so much while still maintaining the measure of grace that historians said Zamperini had -- but that's not quite reflected here. We would have loved to have seen the whole story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Unbroken's violent scenes. How do the prison camp abuse scenes make you feel? Did they need to be included so audiences could understand what Zamperini went through? How do they compare to the scenes of aerial combat and of the men adrift in the ocean? Which had the most impact on you, and why?

  • How does battle affect people? Do you think movies and TV shows depict it realistically? What are the consequences?

  • What do you think kept Zamperini persevering, despite all the challenges he faced? How is he a role model? Do you think the film portrays him accurately?

Movie details

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