Unbroken: Path to Redemption focuses on the latter half of Louis Zamperini's life, and the heroic exploits of Zamperini were always destined to be detailed in bestselling books and blockbuster films. He was an Olympian, and he survived a plane crash as a soldier in World War II only to become a prisoner of war and presumed dead. These events are spotlighted the 2014 film Unbroken, and Unbroken: Path to Redemption plays out like an extended version of the text that closes the original film.
We inevitably get sequels to franchise movies and blockbusters, but seldom do dramas based on a true story get a repeat performance. The Christian-centric movie studio PureFlix decided that Zamperini's life after those major events deserved its own movie. As a result, the core principle of Unbroken: Path to Redemption is that despite the horrors he has been through, and the wreck of a man he has become, Zamperini is able to completely transform his life by becoming an evangelist and spreading the word of forgiveness.
Relative newcomer Samuel Hunt shows off some serious acting chops as he portrays the broad range of challenges Louis Zamperini grappled with. He was tortured by nightmares and anger toward his former captors. He falls in love with a woman who shows him the light of Christianity, and as Louis embraces the concept of forgiving the trespasses of others, he is also able to let go of his anger and overcome a drinking problem that manifested as a result of his struggles.
Merritt Patterson brings life to Louis' wife Cynthia Applewhite, but despite her best attempts to add some depth to the role, the script is not able to support her. Consequently, she almost becomes a caricature of a good wife -- loving, supportive, and able to live out the stereotype of helping her "bad boy" change his ways.
Director Harold Cronk (God's Not Dead, God Bless the Broken Road) brings his usual one-hammer toolbox to nail in his messages of Christian faith. However, his presentation is designed more to preach the good word to people who already believe rather than elicit a strong audience response to anything in the film.
Penned by screen veterans Richard Friedenberg (A River Runs Through It) and Ken Hixon (City by the Sea), the script itself doesn't have anything that's outright bad. Simultaneously, there also aren't any memorable scenes, lines, or parts that differentiate this movie from scads of other films in this genre. Despite the script itself being unbroken, it's unoriginal, uninspiring, and emotionally unavailable, though it's not unwatchable.
This film can feel like an exercise in holding the scene too long when it should be cut, and the affect unfortunately borders on comical - it actually feels similar to the original Austin Powers, when the villains spoof this by laughing until long after the joke has faded. Louis Zamperini underwent a massive shift in his tumultuous life after discovering Christianity. A powerful movie could have been made about these events, but this is not that movie.
In the end, Unbroken: Path to Redemption is a paint-by-numbers exercise in filmmaking that serves as a functional model to convey a story that may or may not have needed to be adapted to film. People who celebrate the Christian faith will find a lot to like in this tried and true formula, while others may find the heavy-handed message a bit excessive.