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Saturday, October 02, 2004

To End All Wars


Info on this posterPeople often ask me face to face, or via email if it is a blast or not to get to do the movie reviews I do? The short answer to that is; Yes but it does take some work and it takes some research. One of the things that continues to bless me is that I have never forgotten about the projects of Johnson City Tennessee where I grew up. To say the least I don’t come from the best of families and my past associations and actions have some things to be desired. I find myself often times thinking and saying, “Man I can’t believe that God has blessed me like this.” When seeing comments in Christianity Today, or getting the chance to meet Governors or even when seeing my reviews on a web site or in a different language I continue to be blown away by God’s goodness. I hope I never forget who I am or where I came from because it really is a testament to the power of Christ.

I say all of that because I have never forgotten that I was a fan of Hollywood Jesus long before I ever wrote reviews for it. I actually started out posting comments on bulletin boards, a number of years ago now, and from that David Bruce contacted me and as they say; “The rest is history.” Now being a fan maintains its advantages. It maintains its advantages because the interest and enthusiasm of seeing certain movies still thrive in me. Movies are important to me for a variety of reasons. Over the years it was the primary method of escape for me when I needed it. I could escape the horror of my life for a couple of hours and live in a fantasy world, one that either made me think, or one that gave me some form of pleasure. I still remember vividly until this day, seeing One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, and then later on meeting Wendell Burton one of the stars of the film with Liza Manelli. Or, seeing Patton and later on in my life seeing him perform live in Inherit th! e Wind, his last play before his death. Then there was The Planet of the Apes, The Night of the Living Dead, Billy Jack and I could go on and on and on. There has always been a level of excitement about the movie going experience and I have never lost that.

I mention all of this to bring up the fact that a number of years ago I remember seeing, actually for quite some time, the listing of the movie To End All Wars staring Kiefer Sutherland and Robert Carlyle among others here on Hollywood Jesus. From the synopsis of this movie and the few comments on the web page, I knew that I wanted to see this movie. I begin a search that continued for over two years. A search only completed this last weekend.

It seems that despite the star power and praise for this movie it never made it into wide or general release. I looked through IMDB for local showings, even putting in requests within 250 miles of both Wichita Kansas and Tulsa Oklahoma, yet never found anything. I looked at Amazon and eBay for copies of the DVD or VHS and yet, never found anything. Then last week (Sept 04) while going through the video store I saw that the movie had finally been released in VHS and DVD formats. To say the least I actually yelled out, “Alright!” in the video store.

To End All Wars is the incredible true story of Ernst Gordon and his fellow prisoners during the “Second Great War to End All Wars.” Gordon later in life became the Dean of Chapel at Princeton University and was quite adamant about his Christian Faith. The story centers around a group of Scottish troops who are captured and placed in a Japanese Prisoner or War Camp and later on given the responsibility to build the “Death Railway” a train track in Thailand. Along the way and as a part of the prison camp, the prisoners suffered horrible abuse and difficulties, many starving to death, and others being executed by their captors.

On the surface, this movie seems to be a portrayal of what has been done many times before in Great War movies focusing on prison camps. To End All Wars however, goes to the point of faith, dedication, love, and ultimate sacrifice like no movie I have seen in quite sometime. To be honest, it is as thought provoking as any movie I have ever seen. For myself and the friends I have had watch it with me since, it was as moving as the recently popular The Passion of the Christ. Don’t get me wrong, I think The Passion is a terrific film that addresses the attributes of love, forgiveness, and more as well as any film I have ever seen. The images of what Jesus did for all of us will live with me forever. That all being said, I am reminded of the fact that I and many may say regarding The Passion: “Yea, we were moved but we knew all along that it was Jesus who was providing the forgiveness for us and he could go through what he went through because he was the Son of God.” It is ! almost as we continue to make excuses to not go on loving each other as he had commanded us to.

Click to enlargeTo End All Wars takes the message of love, and forgiveness to a completely new level. It takes it to the place that shows us that mere humans can love and forgive each other with the same level of sacrifice as Jesus. The brutal reminder of the power of love, over the power of hate is so evident in this movie that one will question their own thoughts as to the purpose and need for hate. Without giving too much away of the movie, one of the powerful reminders we see consistently through the film is the ability of the individual to overcome hate and abuse with the power of love and service. When challenged at the prospect of becoming animals, the majority of characters in the film discover the message of Jesus and the importance of turning your cheek, and loving your enemies that Jesus himself taught. If one were only watching a movie it would be easy to overcome or not take seriously this concept, however, the wonderful job of direction gives us more the sense of being the! re, than just sitting in our seats watching a movie. We are reminded that this is men of war that are engaging these very actions into their own lives, and applying them not just towards each other, but towards their enemies in a combative situation.

This film could have taken liberties and only shown the brutality of the Japanese during this time. However, there are characters that we care about and see as having struggles with their own superior officers’ orders. We see brutality from various individuals, both Allied Forces and the Japanese. We see love and compassion from both sides as well. We see the power of love to overcome and transcend the power of hate. The root of the ability to make that change is the power of the message and Gospel of Jesus Christ. We as viewers are reminded that: “No greater love has any man than this, that he lay down his life for another.” We see visual reminders of the power this can have when we actually apply it. It is in these types of terrific scenes that we are reminded as viewers that we can be more, do more and accomplish so much more if we apply these themes in our own lives.

The DVD of To End All Wars is appropriately fitted with a variety of special features, including the Making Of Documentary, and Director’s Commentary among others. I would strongly recommend that one not only watch the film but watch all of the special features. The company made every effort to be as accurate to the script and situations that actually occurred as humanly possible. While some characters in the film are mergers of various real life characters, the events and episodes are real so the lessons in love that we see portrayed are lessons that were actually lived. After watching a movie like this we are reminded of the missionaries who serve, of the individuals who have given up their all to serve humanity and more. We can no longer use the argument that Jesus could do what he did because he was the Son of God. We can be reminded of the fact that we too, can have an impact on the world around us because through the application of God’s message of love in our li! ves, we too can love in times we didn’t think possible.

I can’t help but think of this film in relation to how we are to love others, and how that translates into the theme of war, especially during these times. I don’t have the answers, but I do firmly believe that love transcends all barriers. No better movie have I ever seen that illustrates that point than To End All Wars. While this is a brutal and graphic film, depicting the brutality of war, I would recommend this movie to anyone over the age of 13, but be willing to discuss the themes addressed in the movie. While some may see the individuals making sacrifices for their belief as fools, it was obvious to me that they were in reality, heroes.

I have to close with somewhat of an editorial comment here. That really is kind of what movie reviewers do anyway. There is on occasion movies that are released that I don’t understand why they didn’t make it into general or wide release. Reversal, a movie I reviewed here on Hollywood Jesus certainly falls into that category, a brilliant film that is as good as any I have ever seen, and now To End All Wars also falls into that category. One of the things that disturbs me about the movie To End All Wars though is why didn’t Christians get up and get excited over this movie. The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is done in a respectful, honest, carrying and brilliant way. The cinematography, sound track, acting and quality of this movie is simply brilliant. There is respect given to the characters who are devout in their faith but at the same time this is a movie that those not a part of the Christian faith would be moved by. The question then becomes, why didn’t we get excited about this and why still yet have so few heard about this movie. I believe that a part of that may have to do with the Nationalistic Tendencies that many within the church tend to take upon themselves. When confronted with the sacrifice of what it means to love others, and then to assume that, that concept means that we actually do that, I believe that most people of faith are afraid to experience that and choose to ignore that very message. I just simply don’t understand why this film wasn’t a box office hit and why it didn’t receive the acclaim of the Passion. To be honest, it is easier to watch and the visual images on screen are just as powerful in many regards. That does not demean or imply that Jesus Sacrifice as portrayed in the Passion of The Christ wasn’t moving, it most certainly was, but the message of each individuals ability to love hits home even harder. My hope is, that those of us involved in ministry would get just as much behind To End Al! l Wars as we have other films in the past. This movie deserves all of the acclaim and viewership it can get. One will not watch this movie and not be moved.

On a scale of 1-10, for the fact that this movie now enters my top 5 of all time a wonderful and true mark of near perfection for me, a well deserving and extremely moving 10.



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