Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



The real Louis Zamperini died a few months before this was released. I don’t know if he ever saw a preview. I hope so. It is a remarkable life story. After finishing eighth in the 5000-meters at Hitler’s Olympics in 1936, he became a bombardier in a B-24 in the Pacific. His first plane was shot up, and the second one was in terrible shape, so bad that it basically came apart in the air while on a rescue mission, killing eight of the eleven crew. He and two others made it to a life raft and survived strafing by Japanese planes and shark attacks, living on rainwater and raw fish for 47 days. (Two of them, anyway. The third died on Day 33.)

This is all well-done, if a little standard. On the other hand, how many ways are there of showing extreme suffering on a tiny boat? In spite of the moments of high drama, the main experience has to be one of nothing at all happening, day after day after day. Hunger, thirst, exposure. Horrible.

Which is pretty much the whole movie, I guess. Things actually get worse when they are captured by the Japanese. Again, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, the fucking Japs were a barbaric culture at the time, full of strutting little pimples like the commander of the camp he is sent to, one Mutsuhiro Watanabe. Barbarians, sub-humans, torturers. It all makes my blood boil, partly because I feel the Japanese were let off very, very easy at the end of the war. Very few of the monsters who should have been hung were actually hung, including “The Bird,” as the prisoners called him. It is especially galling to learn that this bleeding sore on the rectum of humanity escaped custody and wasn’t found until 1956, when everyone had lost interest in punishing war crimes. He became a successful life insurance salesman, a millionaire, and was unrepentant until the day he died. He is currently trying to sell life insurance in one of the hotter parts of Hell, where he is tortured every day in ways even he was never able to think up.

I’d call the movie a noble effort, but also a real ordeal to watch.