I have not read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Despite various conversations and recommendations, almost the entire sum of what I know about the movie comes from the following 2:40 trailer. Now I consider myself an expert. Because the trailer appears to tell me everything, and explains everything, to the point where I’m not sure I need to see the two-hour film anymore. Which is a bummer, because I was looking forward to it. This is a common enough complaint, by the way: trailers that tell far too much. The idea is to get me, the potential consumer, interested in seeing the movie — to entice a purchase — not to summarize the whole thing. This trailer strikes me as particularly egregious. Let’s take a look:
0:07: Our hero is in the air force during WW II, flying over the ocean, which he observes is very large. “Lotta ocean,” he says. He’s not a pilot and he’s not a gunner. He’s a . . . something else.
0:20: After a tense and dramatic aerial dogfight, in which our hero acts bravely — “Inbound! Three o’clock!” — the plane is shot down and crashes into the aforementioned large ocean. All these shots look exciting and well-filmed.
0:32: Brief pause. The story REWINDS and we hear our hero reflect upon his childhood, specifically the positive influence of his older brother. Nonetheless, our hero gets into fights and various sorts of mischief and draws the attention of local law enforcement. He’s on the road to nowhere. The kindly older brother solemnly advises our hero, “If you keep going the way you are going, you’ll end up in the street.”
0:35: Cut to our hero in a track meet, where he overcomes bullies (who cheat!) to come from behind to win a race. The brother’s sage advice plays over the footage: “You train, you fight harder than those other guys, and you win.”
0:43: We see him racing what “might be the fastest final lap in Olympic history”; his family is at home, listening to the race over the radio, ecstatic and proud, because this is also a movie about family values.
0:46: VOICE-OVER MESSAGE: “If you take it, you can make it.”
0:48: Type on screen informs me that this is based on an “extraordinary” true story.
FLASH FORWARD: Back to the plane crash.
1:00: Awesomely cool underwater sequence of plane crash (somebody learned from “Cast Away” starring Tom Hanks). Our hero once again demonstrates bravery and determination.
1:05: Three soldiers on a life raft. It does not look good. There’s at least one shark in the water. The weather absolutely sucks and they eventually get philosophical about life. One suggests out loud that they are going to die. Our hero is like, nuh-huh, “We’re not dying.” He does not accept defeat.
1:13: Our hero, despite horrific experiences clinging to life on the (large) ocean, still keeps a good sense of humor. “I have some good news, and some bad news.”
1:20: They are taken prisoners of war as “enemies of Japan.” Just the worst luck ever. Our hero is beaten and tortured. There is a sweet-faced guard who is particularly cruel to our hero. There might be a love-hate element here, just the way he focuses on our hero, but it’s hard to tell in only a few seconds.
1:32: Whoa, holy crap. He takes a terrific blow to the face right there — singled out because he is an Olympic athlete, and presumably an embodiment of all that is noble about American toughness and spirit. Our hero, we know by now, is not going to stay down.
1:50: After a series of increasingly grim shots of POW camp — with emotional music swelling in the background — our hero says out loud: “If I can take it, I can make it.” Ah-ha, that must be the theme of the movie! A great spirit surviving against all odds. I think I’ve got it. Plus, um, all the family love that makes it possible.
1:58: An insanely long line of prisoners awaits their turn to punch our hero in the face, as he urges them to punch him, presumably out of some sort of self-sacrificing nobility: “Come on, come on!” This, again, seems exceptionally brutal and painful to watch.
TYPE ON SCREEN: “THIS CHRISTMAS.”
2:00: Oh, great. Torture for Christmas! Let’s bring the kids, honey.
2:04: Wait, what? Does Minnie Driver play his mother? No, I don’t think so, but it looked like her for a second. Too bad, I like Minnie Driver. Carry on!
2:07: We finally learn our hero’s name, Louie, and that he loves his parents. A lot. Assorted shots of his family back home, feeling his absence. Oh look, there might even be a romantic interest in this movie, he’s just smooched somebody.
TYPE ON SCREEN: “NEVER GIVE IN.”
2:15: Okay, got it. He does not give up, and neither should we.
2:20: Cruel guard has Louie hold a huge piece of lumber that looks like a beam, clearly an allusion to the crucifixion of Christ. The guard says, “If he drops it, shot him.”
2:25: Another montage of shots of Louie’s life, demonstrations of his strength, love, and character. At this point, we’re all 100% positive that he won’t drop it. Not going to happen. Music gets louder now, a chorus kicks in, the other prisoners root for our hero, whose strength and determination clearly inspires them.
2:32: More shots of triumph and familial love. Amazingly, he presses the huge piece of lumber over his head with arms fully extended. Rocky Balboa!
2:37: Final shot is of light bursting through the clouds, which can be viewed as either religious or secular, depending.
TYPE ON SCREEN: “UNBROKEN”
MORE TYPE ON SCREEN: “ALL MY LIFE I HAD ALWAYS FINISHED THE RACE.” — LOUIS ZAMPERINI
Quibble: This quote seems fairly pedestrian for a big final quote. It’s not very poetic, profound, or memorable. But maybe it’s there because Louie was really just a simple kind of guy with basic American values. Not a poet, but everyman.
TYPE ON SCREEN: COMING SOON.
FINAL CREDITS, the end.
Too bad, I barely finished chewing one Milk Dud. Louis Zamperini seems like an amazing, resilient person who lived an extraordinary life. Wow. I’m so glad I saw that trailer!