"A Valiant Redemptive Effort"
TO END ALL WARS is the true story of four Allied POWs who endure harsh treatment from their Japanese captors during World War II. Despite minor script weakness and excessive foul language, the movie winningly portrays brilliant Christian truths.
TO END ALL WARS makes a valiant and highly emotive attempt to capture the true story of the World War II POW (prisoner of war) camp represented in the magnificent movie THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI, where the Japanese mistreated British and American POWs. The movie focuses on the internal struggles of the courageous POWs as they struggle to survive the harsh conditions of the POW camp
The movie opens with a voice-over of Captain Ernest Gordon, who became the dean of the chapel at Princeton University, talking about growing up in Scotland and joining an elite Scottish regiment to fight for freedom against the Japanese Imperial threat in the Pacific during World War II. Quickly, the story cuts to his unit being captured by the Japanese. The Japanese soldiers immediately subject the prisoners to extreme physical and psychological torture.
In the camp with Ernest is Major Ian Campbell, played by Robert Carlyle, who wants to escape, and wants revenge. Another POW, Dusty, builds a chapel and witnesses, in word and deed, to Jesus Christ, finally giving up his life to be crucified so that Ian can remain alive. The other prisoner is a Yankee, whom they call “Yanker,” played by Keifer Sutherland, who is extremely selfish, but after horrible torture, ends up sacrificing himself for the other prisoners.
As if the conditions in the camp were not bad enough, the prisoners are forced on minimum rations to build a railroad from Thailand to Burma, so that the Japanese can expand their empire. In the midst of this degradation and torture, Ernest starts a school which gives hope and faith to the other prisoners.
TO END ALL WARS contrasts the warrior Bushido (loosely translated “obligation”) culture of the Japanese, which demands honor, valor and submission to the Emperor at any cost, with Western culture, which focuses on the individual, and with true Christian sacrifice and forgiveness. Eventually, forgiveness, self-sacrifice and love triumph.
There are some extremely poignant moments in TO END ALL WARS. The movie has clear Christological, incarnational, allegorical elements. The photography is noteworthy, and the direction is to be commended. Director David L. Cunningham exhibits real talent and has come a long way toward establishing himself as an top director in his brief career.
The writing, too, is to be commended, though the writer, Brian Godawa, pointed out in an interview, there are flaws in the storytelling. Thus, he noted that he concentrated on three themes, one for each of the three act structure, which tends to make the movie episodic and so distances the movie slightly from the audience. Brian says he didn’t want to make this another Hollywood movie like THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI, but THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI was crafted with a great premise, which left the people weeping at the end. The sequential thematic nature of TO END ALL WARS diminishes its power. The movie needed a more cohesive premise to propel the audience to a powerful emotional climax. Regrettably, the final edit left out certain important character moments, leaving the audience guessing about some of the development. Even so, the movie has incredibly powerful moments that will move viewers deeply.
This is a big movie made on a smaller budget, and the filmmakers should be commended for all they’ve done. The sound, in spots, is weak, (for instance, the sound of marching hardly matches the straggling prisoners heading into camp), and the music is sometimes at odds with the story. At times, too, the language is anachronistic and doesn’t capture the essence of 1940s British and Scottish English, though most audiences will not notice.
People of faith and values need to support this movie, though some, regrettably, will be turned off by the violence and surplus of obscenities.
TO END ALL WARS is a powerful movie. It teaches valuable lessons, has brilliant acting, and deserves all the awards it’s winning and much more. Bravo to all involved in the production.
(CCC, FR, LLL, VVV, S, N, A, D, M) Extremely Christian worldview with negative and positive references to Japanese cultural and religious beliefs; 31 obscenities; extreme wartime violence including pumping water into a prisoner to bloat him, point blank executions, crucifixion, bombing causes dismemberings, beatings, kickings, torture, and starvation with blood and gore; comfort girls brought to POW camp; natural male nudity with no private parts shown; drinking; smoking; drug use suggested; and, lying, stealing, betrayal, and cruelty.
In TO END ALL WARS, the Japanese capture and torture Captain Earnest Gordon’s unit and order them to build a railroad from Thailand to Burma. Major Ian Campbell wants to escape and wants revenge. Dusty builds a chapel and witnesses, in word and deed, to Jesus Christ, finally giving up his life to be crucified so that Ian can live. Another prisoner, whom they call “Yanker,” is extremely selfish, but after horrible torture, ends up sacrificing himself for the other prisoners.
TO END ALL WARS contrasts the warrior culture of the Japanese, which demands honor, valor and submission to the Emperor at any cost, with Western culture, which focuses on the individual, and with true Christian sacrifice and forgiveness. The movie has clear Christological elements, the photography is noteworthy, and the direction is to be commended. The movie is too episodic, which slightly distances the movie from the audience, but this is a big movie made on a smaller budget. Overall, the movie teaches valuable lessons, has brilliant acting, and deserves the awards it’s winning. In spite of the violence and foul language, mature people of faith and values need to support this profound movie.