Movie ‘Unbroken’ touches Singapore’s top para athletes

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Top left to right: Singapore para athletes Tay Wei Ming, Ng Xiu Zhen, Alvina Neo, Shariff Abdullah Peters & Aaron Per.

Bottom left to right: Nurulasyiqah Mohammad Taha, Theresa Goh, Jovin Tan, Dr William Tan & Jason Chee.

The happy life of an  US Olympian and athlete turns into living hell when the plane he is in with his fellow army mates crashes into the Pacific Ocean and he and his mate are captured as a ‘Prisoners of War’ for two years by the Japanese Navy.

That is a simple one-liner description of the movie ‘Unbroken’ set in World War 2  based on a true story and an adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s novel about the late Louis Zamperini. It is a tale of the horrors endured and suffered bravely by one man who had the faith that he would live to tell his story through the grace of God.

‘Unbroken’ is Angelina Jolie’s third directorial debut. The movie has been nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Cinematography.

Singapore’s national para athletes caught the movie premiere yesterday evening. Two of them were Dr William Tan, the first man in the world to complete the North Pole Marathon and the Antarctica Marathon in a wheelchair and Shariff Abdullah Peters, Singapore’s very own blade runner.

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Shariff Abdullah Peters with his wife, Rozanah Sharif.

This is what they had to say about the movie:

“This movie is really awesome! It amazes me what the human spirit can do,” Said Dr William Tan, “So indomitable against all odds.”

“This movie really touched my heart. It teaches us about courage, to never give up, and also to forgive.” Said Shariff Abdullah Peters.

The para athletes will be taking part in this year’s ASEAN Para Games, which will be hosted for the first time in Singapore from 3 -9 December 2015.

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Dr William Tan with Jason Chee

Movie review
The movie leaves viewers with graphic images of pain, suffering and endurance printed in their minds long after they have left the cinema.

The story is set against a minimalistic background with nothing more than the sky, sea, race track and a barren Japanese war camp. However it is the raw emotions of anger, pain, fury, pride, humiliation and love that is etched into the faces of the actors that pulls the audience in and keeps them at the edge of their seats throughout.

Fast-paced, the movie delivers twists and turns in the plots before you can anticipate it. Outstanding scenes include the trio of friends including Louis surviving 47 days at the sea by fighting off sharks and eating raw fish, saving a deflating lifeboat and witnessing the bodies of hunky men withering into diseased bony bodies.

The movie seems to have only fresh faces including the lead actor, Jack O’Connell, a British actor. He has boyish looks and a ‘tempt-the-devil’ spirit. He carries this spirit despite the torture he undergoes and like the other ‘POWs’, we too cheer him on to take on the bully.

I found that casting Japanese rock star Miyavi who is younger and cuter than the real-life character Mutsuhiro Watanabe whom he portrayed, softened the image of Watanabe. Mutsuhiro was an older, masculine-looking person and looked more menacing.

However, Miyavi does play his role well, delivering his lines and violent abuse in a psychotic and masochistic manner. Miyavi breaks noses and bones with no mercy. The movie shows a heavy focus on the torture of Louis by Mutsuhiro at the ‘POW’ camp which made it seem like the rest of the ‘POWs’ had it easier.

The movie made me ask how much suffering can the human body take and what does that really depend on? Physical strength, mental strength, emotional strength? Or is it more intangible stuff such as pride, honour and faith? One may not know how far they can push themselves until they do so and Louis Zamperini is an examplar of that.

The movie is an adaptation of the book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.

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