This whole rating business is perhaps best summed up in this remark. “Jack Valenti, who had become president of the MPAA in May 1966, deemed the Hays Code – in place since 1930 and rigorously enforced since 1934 – as out of date, and bearing ‘the odious smell of censorship’. Filmmakers were pushing at the boundaries of the Code.” Having come to know Jesus as my Savior in 1972, I knew I could no longer allow myself to be entertained by movies offering increased amounts of gratuitous sex and debauchery. As the years have rolled by, Hollywood makes fewer and fewer movies that meet our strict standards. Call me a prude, or a Puritan, I really don’t care. But I do not need to expose my heart and mind to such trash when I struggle enough every day trying to walk with Jesus in a world that is truly bent on removing all vestiges of godliness.
Perhaps you can see why Isaura and I rarely enter into the world of Hollywood. However, we are optimists, always on the lookout for that rare gem of a movie that seems to fit our narrow parameters.
Another area of concern with movies is the enormous amount of violence that is increasingly more graphic. There is a titillation factor that draws people in for the chance to see even more violence. Now, I love a good shoot’em up, bang-bang as much as the next guy, plus I’ve served in two wars: first as a Marine in Vietnam, and then as a Navy chaplain in Operation Iraqi Freedom. But violence in movies today seems to be used purely for entertainment. This sort of over-the-top violence began with a western called “The Wild Bunch” (1969), using an all-star cast of actors that helped sell it to the public.
So last Saturday Isaura and I decided to take in a movie that was released on Christmas. It has been hyped more than any other movie I can remember in recent memory. The movie is “Unbroken,” the true story of World War II veteran Louie Zamperini. This man endured untold physical and mental cruelty and abuse during his more than two years in Japanese prison camps. The movie, directed by Angelina Jolie, deviates markedly at times from the book by the same name. “Unbroken,” written by Laura Hillenbrand, brings Zamperini’s life into full focus, something Jolie fails to do. The movie is over two hours in length, and with the endless offerings of violence, I had reached my saturation point, finding myself glancing at my watch. My wife, on the other hand, had her eyes closed for half the movie. As she stated while we were walking out of the theater, “My heart is racing!”
The brutality of the Japanese guards and camp commander in the movie no doubt were true to the story. Much of the distasteful viciousness might have been tolerable had the movie told “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey famously said. I’ve been acquainted with the Louie Zamperini story for many years. And it’s just here that Jolie failed. Zamperini did in fact endure the beatings and daily targeting for punishment. He survived to return home to his parents and siblings which is pretty much where the movie ends, offering a few scant notes as to what Louie did with the rest of his 69 years!
All he endured created in him a bitterness in his soul that drove him to abusing alcohol. And because of his celebrity status as an Olympic athlete and a war hero, he was wined and dined across the country. He struggled with what we know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for several years until his wife convinced him to go hear this new evangelist who was packing people into his meetings every night in Los Angeles. The year was 1949 and Billy Graham was just beginning his incredible ministry of preaching the gospel. Lou knew he needed help, so he went forward during one of the meetings where he turned his life over to Jesus. He became good friends with Billy Graham and served on his staff for many years. He was involved in sharing the gospel in a number of ways which time and space do not allow for this article. Know this: There is more, much more to the Lou Zamperini story. In fact, in the December 2014 edition of the Costco Connection magazine, their feature article is all about Louie’s life. I was delighted that they were very open about his conversion as well.
Lou Zamperini experienced the forgiveness he so desperately needed from a merciful God. He then realized he needed to show this same mercy by forgiving those whom he hated if the bitterness in his heart was ever to be removed. He traveled to Japan where he shared his transformed life, telling his former prison guards what Jesus had done for him and what Jesus could do for them. He even attempted to meet with “The Bird,” the name for the prison camp commander who was so ruthless in his treatment of Lou. Sadly, this man would not meet with Lou.
Lou’s son, Luke, said in summing up his father’s legacy, “He was always willing and able to tell his story because of the positive effect it had on people, not to his glory, but to the glory of the Lord.”
Now that’s a story worth telling!