Christian evangelical leader Greg Laurie is expressing disappointment over some important details purportedly being left out of an upcoming feature film directed by actress Angelina Jolie.
Reports claim that the upcoming movie "Unbroken," a story about Olympic runner and U.S. Army Air Corps member Louis Zamperini who was taken hostage in Japan during World War II, won't include intricate details about his Christian conversion — a decision Laurie says is a profound mistake.
"I'm disappointed that director Angelina Jolie has chosen to leave this vital and essential part of Louis Zamperini's life out of this much anticipated film," Laurie told the Christian Post. "To me, the most amazing part of his story is not just surviving the incomprehensible beatings in the Japanese internment camp, or being adrift at sea for over 47 days. It was the fact that Louis was able, because of his conversion and newfound Christian faith, to go back to Japan to the very guards who mistreated him and forgive them, as well as tell them about Jesus Christ."
Actress Angelina Jolie in front of G8 foreign ministers speaks at a G8 Foreign Ministers press conference on sexual violence against women in London on April, 11, 2013 to announce new funding to tackle the issue. (AFP/Getty Images)
Zamperini's life story was most certainly a fascinating one. He went from a wild child, to an Olympian, to a World War II hero — and ended up as a well-known inspirational Christian speaker.
Movie Guide has more about his fascinating story:
Born the son of Italian immigrants in 1917, Zamperini was a smoker by age 5, a school bully by third grade, and a menace to society by high school. Thankfully, Zamperini was encouraged to put his talents toward more productive pursuits, such as running track. Successful in the sport and eventually known as “The Tornado from Torrance,” Zamperini was invited to train for the 1936 Olympics and eventually enrolled at the University of Southern California on a scholarship. At the 1936 Olympics in Nazi-ridden Berlin, Zamperini’s most notorious fan was Adolf Hitler. After his disappointing placement in the 1936 games, Zamperini hoped to re-qualify for the Olympic team in 1940, but the games were cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II.
A bombardier in WWII, Zamperini’s aircraft crashed into the Pacific Ocean. He and one other survivor spent 47 days at sea in a life raft, drifting some 2000 miles, only to be picked up by a Japanese war ship. The Japanese put Zamperini and his companion into their horrific prison camps, where he was tortured beyond depiction for two years. He was made a special object of cruelty by the infamous Japanese torturer known as “The Bird.”
Zamperini later married after returning home, though he experienced personal battles with alcohol and PTSD. But it was his discovery of the Christian faith that completely changed him — a story he regularly shared with audiences.
And that's why Laurie is questioning reports that his conversion experience and faith perspective aren't dealt with in detail in the film.
The trailer for "Unbroken" does point to some elements of faith, though it is unclear how much these pieces will come into play in the final product:
Laurie, who spent time with Zamperini and knew him well before his death at the age of 97 in July, said that the veteran's conversion story is integral to understanding his experiences and the traumatic events that he faced — and that without God, Zamperini's life could have shaped up quite differently.
"The fact of the matter is, if Louis Zamperini had not met Jesus Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade, his story could have ended far differently. Suffering from severe PTSD and plummeting into alcoholism, Louis could easily have died," Laurie told the Post. "But his life was changed, and he was, as he told me personally, 'instantly healed of PTSD' as well as his dependence on alcohol."
Reports about the film's exclusion of important faith details appear to be based on a Los Angeles Times story published in April in which Jolie was said to have pitched the movie to conclude with Zamperini's freedom from captivity and that the proposed plot, according to the outlet, did "not include his bout with alcoholism and Billy Graham-inspired religious conversion."
It is currently unclear, though, if the final script touched upon any of these elements.
Watch an interview Laurie did with Zamperini back in 2011 at the Harvest Crusade at Dodger Stadium:
The film, which is Jolie's second directorial project, is based on the book "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption" and will be released in theaters nationwide December 25.
(H/T: Christian Post)