Director: Angelina Jolie.
Starring: Jack O'Connell (Louis Zamperini), Domhnall Gleeson (Phil), Garrett Hedlund (Fitzgerald), Miyavi (Watanabe), Finn Wittrock (Mac), Jai Courtney (Cup), Maddalena Ischiale (Louise), Vincenzo Amato (Anthony), John Magaro (Tinker), Luke Treadaway (Miller), Louis McIntosh (Harris), Ross Anderson (Blackie), C.J. Valleroy (Young Louie), John D'Leo (Young Pete), Alex Russell (Older Pete).
usual inhumane treatment of POWs by the Japanese; Olympic athlete is given especially brutal treatment by the leader of the treatment of the POWs
A true story. American bombers are raiding enemy targets. Louie is the bombardier. As they near the target, the plane gets anti-aircraft flak around it. The flak shakes the plane making it more difficult for the bombardier to find the target. Louie finds the target and releases the bombs.
When Louie tries to close the bomb bay doors, he finds that the doors won't shut. And now a Japanese Zero is coming at the plane at a high rate of speed. The gunners start blasting away at the plane which zooms right under the plane. Phil, the pilot, tells Louie that he's got to get the bomb bay doors closed. Louie heads below to fix the doors. Meanwhile, one of the many gunners down a Zero. Then another Zero wounds Harry, one of the waist gunners. Louie tries to help Harry. Lambert, the tail gunner, is hit and appears to be dead. Louie tells Phil about about the tail gunner, and Phil tells Louie that they have no hydraulics [the system that transmits energy or power from one place to another efficiently; if the system fails the plane loses the ability to go left or right].
Flashback. Louis is a young boy sitting in church. He's very restless and his dad slaps him on the back of his head on two occasions.
Louie Zamperini is being chased by a policeman. Louie is fast and thin and gets away. He goes over to a hiding place where he stashes his stolen goods. A little later four bullies come along calling Louie a Wop. Then they start beating Louie up. Louie tries to fight back but they overpower him. The policeman comes to the rescue, but Louie is in trouble now. Officer Collier takes Louie back to his mother. The officer says that everyone in town wants Louie put away. Louie's older brother translates the English spoken to Italian and vice versa. Mother is very upset with Louie. When dad comes home, he uses his belt on Louie's backside.
Louie is watching the girls from beneath the bleacher seats. Someone comes after him and Louie starts running as fast as he can. His brother Pete is on the track with the track team and he is really impressed by Pete's speed.
Now Pete is going to coach Louie to be a runner. He rides a bicycle alongside Louis as he runs, encouraging him to go faster. Louie stops running and says he can't make the track team and he doesn't even want to run track. Pete tells him: "If you can take it, you can make it." Pete believes in Louie and tells Louie that he just has to believe in himself.
Louie runs last in a track meet, seemingly content with his position. So Pete yells at him: "Come on! You dumb dago!" This makes Louie mad and he starts passing some of the other runners. Pete believes in Louie and keeps working with him as Louie grows and gets faster and faster.
Louie starts winning consistently and gets the nickname of the Torrance Tornado. [Torrance is an affluent city in the South Bay (southwestern) region of Los Angeles County, California.] A radio announcer says: "The Torrance Tornado smoked the mile in 4 minutes, 21.3 seconds. Zamperini is now officially the fastest high school runner in American history. Folks, this kid is on his way to the Olympics!"
Louie heads off to Berlin for the 1936 Olympic games.
Back to the present. Phil is going to make a crash landing on the airport runway. The rock wall just before the ocean saves the plane from going into the water.
Louie keeps on running the mile even on the island in the Pacific Ocean. He runs with a jeep and runs a mile in 4 minutes and 12 seconds. Some of his flight crew drive-up in a jeep and tell Louie he has to go with them on a rescue mission. A B-24 en route to Kanton never made it. They think the crew had to ditch their plane in the ocean. There's a problem, however. They are given a faulty plane, the worst they have to take on the mission.
Over the ocean one of the four engines conks out. Another engine goes and now there are no engines working on the left wing. Phil tells his crew to prepare to crash.
Flashback. Louie is on the field of the Olympic stadium watching a German runner light the Olympic flame. He runs by a banner with a swastika on it. Later, an announcer says: "Negro American Jesse Owens from Ohio State has won four gold medals in the 100 meter, the 200 meter, the long jump and the 400 meter relay." And now they will run the 5,000 meter race. Don Lash will lead the race for the American team in company with the newcomer Louie Zamperini. Zamperini is way back near the end of the line. But on his last lap he comes from behind, passing his teammate Don Lash, and finishes behind the Finns in 3rd place. The American announcer says: "I have not seen that! That final lap, folks, the record for that was 69.2 seconds. Zamperini just did it in 56 seconds. That record is going to hold for a while, let me tell you."
Back to the present. The plane hits the water hard. Louie is trapped by some of the wreckage. The plane settles a little and loosens the wreckage enough so that Louie can get out of the plane and up to the air surface. When he catches his breath he sees Phil and Mac. Only three of the crew survived the crash. The three help each other get into the two rubber rafts that are inflated. Mac starts to name those who perished, but Louie tells him not to think about them. Mac says: "We're gonna die." Louie says: "No, we're not, Mac." Mac keeps saying one negative thing after another, until Phil tells Louie to shut Mac up. Louie tells Mac to shut up.
At night, the sharks bump into their two rafts. They can also see the shark fins. In the morning they see a plane and fire a couple of flares up in the air. They also put green dye in the water. But the plane doesn't see them and keeps going. And now Louie discovers that Mac ate up all the chocolate that was meant for all three people. Mac says it doesn't matter, and Louie goes ballistic over his cavalier attitude to Mac's pilfering all the chocolate.
Day 3. Mac starts crying. Louie catches a sea gull. The guys eat the flesh. Then they all throw up the contents of their stomachs. Then they catch their first fish and they all keep that food in their stomachs.
Day 18. Louie and Phil talk about life after death. Louie is a bit of a skeptic, but when a huge storm blows them around and up and down, he prays to God. He says that if God will let him live, he will dedicate his life to Him.
The guys catch a small shark and eat it. They see a plane coming overhead and shoot a flare and then another. The pilot sees them and turns around. The plane comes at them and then the machine guns fire bullets at the men. It's a Japanese plane. The guys jump into the water. Once the firing is over, the guys get back into the raft. But the plane comes back again. Louie jumps in the water, but the other two just stay in the raft. When Louie gets back in the raft, Phil tells him: "If the Japs are this bad, we might even win this damn war."
A shark was hit by Japanese bullets and the blood in the water makes the sharks more aggressive. Mac grabs a paddle and starts beating the sharks about their heads. That stops the sharks. Phil and Louie are impressed at Mac's shark fighting skills.
Mac is suddenly very quiet. The other two start to worry about him. Mac asks: "Am I gonna die?" Louie thinks about that, and then says: "Maybe, Mac." Mac replies that he thinks he will die tonight. Mac dies just a little later. The guys put his body in the water and watch as it sinks under the water surface.
Day 45. A Japanese submarine picks up the very sick men. On land, the POWs are thrown into separate caves. The two guys can hear each other's voices so they can communicate some with each other. The guards grab Phil and beat him.
On another day, a guard takes Louie to see the Japanese commander. The fellow asks Louie for some military information about the American military strength, but Louie really doesn't know the answers to the questions. The commander shows a drawing in an American newspaper about Louie being an Olympic hero? The commanderwants to know if this is Olympic athlete Louie? Louie is silent, so the commander just says Louie is an Olympic hero. Louie asks some questions of his own? He asks where are the marines from Makin Island now? When Louie starts to draw a bombsight for the commander, the translator guard says: "They were beheaded." The commander approves Louie's drawing, so a guard takes Louie back to his cave Phil is being brought out of his cave, so Louie tells him to draw a Philco radio, knobs on the side for the commander.
Phil and Louie are both brought out of their caves. They are told to take off their military clothes. They take off their clothes. They are told to kneel down. They both expect to be beheaded. Louie starts to cry. Now buckets of water are thrown on the two Americans. Now the men with other POWs are being transported by ship to a POW camp. They believe correctly that they are being taken to Japan.
Now the guys are at the POW camp. There are "old prisoners" and "new prisoners" at the camp. The manager says that this is Omori Detention Camp. He then declares that his name is Corporal Watanabe. He adds: "You are enemies of Japan. You will be treated accordingly." He then catches Louie looking at him. He goes over to Louie and tells him to look at him in the eye. Louie obeys and Watanabe hits Louie with his long baton across the top of his head. Then he punches Louie in the nose with the baton. Louie gets up and the corporal punches him with his baton right on his nose again. This time the nose really starts bleeding. Louie has his eyes closed now. Watanabe tells him twice slowly: "Don't look at me."
Under guards, the new prisoners now have to stand up all night. Then they are allowed to go to the barracks. They meet Tom Miller, their barrack commander. Miller assigns the new prisoners to their bunks. He looks at Louie's bloody nose and says that he sees that Louie has already met the Bird. They named the Japanese corporal the bird because of his habit of breaking prisoners' noses. Now Commander Fitzgerald introduces himself to Louie.
In the morning after roll call, the prisoners are made to do calisthenics. Then the corporal asks who is the Olympic athlete. Louie hesitates, but does raise his hand. So now the corporal sets up a running contest to see if their best Japanese soldier can outrun Louie.
The race begins and the Japanese fellow is way out in front of the tired Louie. In fact, Louie collapses when he gets somewhat close to the finish line. He lays there for some seconds, and then gets up and crosses the finish. He collapses again and just lays their on his back. The corporal tells him: "You fail. You are nothing." With his baton, he strikes Louie again.
The commander tells his men in the barracks that the USA has invaded the Marshall Islands. The corporal beats Louie again. He asks Louie why does Louie always make him beat him?
The Japanese call Louie in. They complain that the Americans are saying that Louie is dead, but Louie is not dead. They want Louie to make it known to the Americans that he is very much alive. The Japanese take him to Tokyo to be broadcast over the radio on the program called The Policeman Calls.
Louie eats in the cafeteria. Now the communications men come to him again and hand him a script that they want him to read over the radio. Louie looks it over and says that he can't read this script because it's just not true. "What it says about America, I can't say that."
So now Louie is back at camp. His punishment is to be hit in the face by every POW in the prison. A lot of the guys don't want to do it. The Japanese bring out a beaten up Phil and say that Phil will receive a baton hit for every prisoner who doesn't hit Louie. Louie tells them the prisoners to go ahead and hit him. With some of the men he has to yell at them to hit him. After awhile, the Japanese have to hold Louie up so the prisoners can strike him in the face.
It's snowing in the camp. The sadistic corporal comes over to Louie and tells him he has good news. He has had a promotion. And the bad news is that he says goodbye to his friends. He will be leaving Omori tomorrow. "You may congratulate me." Louie remains quiet.
American bombs are dropping near the prison camp. The POWs have to man the bucket brigade to throw water on any fires started.
The POWs are being moved out. They walk by the bombed out houses and see the bodies of dead Japanese. Next the men are put on a train. They are taken to a coal processing place where they will be working, manually carrying big loads of coal in big baskets. And who is in command of this hell hole? None other than Watanabe. He makes an appearance saying that he is Sgt. Watanabe, and this is Naoetsu prison camp. "You are enemies of Japan. You will be treated accordingly." They will be working on the coal barges. Anyone who will not work will be executed. And the Bird hits Louie in the head again.
Watanabe stops the work to tell the prisoners that President Roosevelt is dead. One man breaks done and cries. A guard pushes Louie off the gang plank going down and he sprains his ankle.
Louie now has to work just as much, but with a sprained ankle. So he takes a break and is grabbed for punishment by a guard. Now the sadist wants Louie to pick up a large piece of lumber and hold it over his head. Louie has a hard time picking the wood up. He finally lifts the piece of lumber and gives out with a scream. The prisoners and guards have stopped work to watch this event. Watanabe does like Louie's accomplishment. He tells Louie, don't look at me. With his voice breaking, he repeats his order. Louie keeps looking at him, so Watanabe charges Louie with his long baton and jabs him in the stomach. Louie goes down and the the Bird just keeps beating him. His baton breaks, so he has to start hitting Louie with his fists. He then kicks Louie repeatedly. The sadist exhausts himself. He looks up now and sees no one working. He shouts for the prisoners to start working again. Louie just lays there where he passed out through the entire night.
And now the news comes that the war has come to a cessation. All prisoners are now allowed to bathe in the Hokura River. Some of the men think the Japanese are going to kill them there. The men walk into the river. But they are not machine-gunned down. They see a United States bomber fly over their heads and now they realize that the war is over. Now the men are celebrating the end of the war with Japan.
The former POWs receive supplies dropped from airplanes. Now they are clean, with somewhat clean clothes and with plenty of food.
Louie goes to see Watanabe, but he has already left. He sits down on the floor with his back to the wall.
Louie is now a captain. His parents and siblings meet him on the airfield.
In 1946 Louie Zamperini met and married his beloved Cynthia Applewhite. They had a daughter, Cissy, and a son, Luke.
Lt. Russell "Phil" Phillips survived the war and married his sweetheart, Cecy. He and Louie remained friends long after the war.
Mutsuhiro Watanabe, "the Bird", remained in hiding for several years as a war criminal until he was granted amnesty by the U.S. in it efforts to reconcile with Japan.
After years of severe post-traumatic stress, Louie made good on his promise to serve God, a decision he credited with saving his life. Motivated by his faith, Louie came to see that the way forward was not revenge, but forgiveness. He returned to Japan, where he found and madr peace with his former captors. Only the Bird refused to meet him. Louie finally realized his dream, and ran again in the Olympics. At age 80. He carried the Olympic torch through town in Japan.
Louie died in 2014.
The location of the camp was: "On the west coast of the main island of Honshu, northwest of Tokyo, due north of Nagano, about 75 miles south of Niigata." Source: North China Marines. http://www.northchinamarines.com/id35.html
Very enjoyable film. This film of Japanese torture and abuse of Allied prisoners is a little different from the usual ones. That's because the sadistic camp manager kept picking on one poor fellow, Louie, a champion runner. The manager seems obsessed with brutalizing Louie. Another difference with this movie is that the camps the men went to were on Japan itself. Same torture, just on Japanese soil. Jack O'Connell (as Louis Zamperini) was good in his role.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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