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Unbroken: Path to Redemption – A Formulaic Coda to Zamperini’s Tale (Guest Review)

Now, roughly four years after Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, Pure Flix Entertainment and director Harold Cronk present the continuation of Zamperini’s cinematic story in the film Unbroken: Path to Redemption. Does this “spiritual successor” movie to the 2014 release ring strong and true or is a bit “too little, too late” to fully capture a revisit Unbroken?

Synopsis:When the war ended, his battle began. Based on Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book, UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION begins where Unbroken ends, sharing the next amazing chapter of Olympian and World War II hero Louis Zamperini’s powerful true story of forgiveness, redemption, and amazing grace. (IMDB)

Starring: Samuel Hunt, Merritt Patterson, and Will Graham

Writers: Richard Friedenberg and Ken Hixon

Director: Harold Cronk

Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)

Running Time: 98mins

Trailer:

While the movie sort of completes the cinematic journey of Louis Zamperini’s tale on the silver screen, the truth is that Unbroken: Path to Redemption is an unnecessary and predictable epilogue to the original 2014 film. It’s still moving and inspirational, but it’s also formulaic and shallow.

As opposed to Unbroken, this new film showcases the struggle that Zamperini faces after the war, including his PTSD, his alcoholism, and his faith. Additionally, the film streamlines the events of Unbroken before Path to Redemption begins. The story here was about a man who wants to move on to the next stage of his life but is held back by his somewhat “destructive” isolation that he faces, haunted and terrorized by his past war memories. Naturally, this brings up the whole PTSD struggle that many returning home soldiers / veterans must face and endure for years which became the main focal point of the feature. These were some of the best moments of the film. This inspiration lasts all the way until the end.

It was kind of interesting to see the two Unbroken films presented quite differently from each other, with one being a more big-time Hollywood endeavor that showcases 2/3’s of Hillenbrand’s book, while the other is considered a “low budget” feature and showcases the last 1/3 of the story as more of a smaller scale endeavor. Path to Redemption still carries the necessary emotional weight to make the character of Louis Zamperini a compelling / inspirational one.

What also succeeds in Path to Redemption is in its technical presentation. As a whole, the movie is a low-budget endeavor, with a $6 million budget compared to Unbroken‘s $65 million. While the movie doesn’t have many big-time actors, the film smartly utilizes their budget to make Path to Redemption feel authentic and appropriate for the film’s setting. Additionally, the cinematography is pretty good, especially during the nightmare / PTSD vision sequences that Zamperini has throughout the course of the movie. What’s also good is the score, provides some heroic / rousing melodies as well as some somber / dramatic pieces accordingly.

Path to Redemption does stumble in several areas and can’t match Unbroken. This film is unnecessary. The movie does tell the last part of Hillenbrand’s Unbroken book (completing Zamperini’s tale), but it just feels like one of those movies that really didn’t need to be made as the first Unbroken film gave a meaningful and poignant cinematic take on Louie Zamperini’s journey. Path to Redemption was more of a redemption narrative and mostly succeeds. Path to Redemption breezes by with a runtime of only 98 minutes, while Unbroken had a heftier runtime of 137 minutes. While some might argue that’s a good thing, the problem lies within its speedy runtime, which quickly glosses over many of the film’s events; presenting a few sequences of events in rather brisk fashion.

Path to Redemption is a supposed to be a continuation to the 2014 film, but the movie assumes that viewers have watched Unbroken. Those who haven’t will be a little confused as to Louie’s past. This movie is only tells the last 1/3 of the story and it certainly feels like it as it seems to stretch the narrative to its extreme. There’s so many avenues and parts that could’ve explored in order to add a bit more substance to the narrative story. However, the end result is a bit more empty-handed, especially when compared to Unbroken, leaving the majority of the film to playout in a rather flat and predictable manner. Additionally, given the almost four-year gap between films, Path to Redemption has that feeling of being “too little, too late” to its own party as the allure and fascination to what Jolie’s 2014 Unbroken made seems to have diminished over the passing of years. Path to Redemption feels like one of those DTV / (Direct-to-Video) releases.

While the first Unbroken movie featured several recognizable actors, almost none of them return for Path to Redemption. With almost none of the original Unbroken cast returning for this film, a new cast of actors and actresses are selected to play these characters. The problem, however, is that most of the acting talents are pretty mediocre for the most part. While they were not necessarily bad, the majority are just “meh”. A perfect example was with Zamperini, played by Hunt who was okay. He hits all the right dramatic tones / moments but it was difficult to buy into him. The other poignant character was Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe, played by actor David Sakurai. The character of “The Bird” is only presented in Louie’s nightmare vision, which included a fleeting glimpse of him. Sakuari does get the job done, but there’s just not much to him beyond Louie’s quick visions of him.

When the war ended, his battle began” is the main tagline that sets the stage for a personal journey of Louis Zamperini’s post-war journey for the film Unbroken: Path to Redemption. Director Harold Cronk’s latest movie sees the return of Louie Zamperini, showcasing his life “after” war and the conflict he faces with battling his own personal demons. While the movie carries an emotional weight within its main narrative, the majority of the film follows a predictable / formulaic path with middle-of-the-road acting from its cast and is an unnecessary (and less interesting) continuation to the 2014 film. This movie is an “iffy-choice” as well as an okay-ish “rent it” or just to wait for it to come on TV at some point. While the story is there, the movie was…not so much.

2.8 Out of 5 (Iffy-Choice / Rent It)

If interested, check out my movie blog @ Jason’s Movie Blog for my reviews of current movies….

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