New movies are usually released to theaters every Friday, but who’s got 10 bucks these days to drop on a movie that may well be a load of crap? Given those odds, each Friday I offer an alternative on DVD that you can rent at your local video store (or in some cases, avoid at all costs). Some will be new releases, others you may have to hunt for, but all of them are available to light up your small screen should it be a lazy Friday night.
To End All Wars
Well, for one reason or another, it’s been quite a while since I’ve done a Friday’s Featured Film. That’s a streak I aim to end today. Last night, as I was up late feeding my little girl, I got to watch John McCain’s acceptance speech the Republican National Convention. I thought the speech was a good one for McCain, given that speeches aren’t usually his strong suit, but I found particularly compelling his telling of his experiences as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. His tales reminded me of one of my all-time favorite movies, a small-budget World War II POW tale called To End All Wars. If you’ve never seen the film – or never even heard of it – and you want to see a moving war film that takes a beautiful look at the Christian faith put to action in the most difficult of circumstances, go down to your local movie rental store and check it out.
The film is based off of the memoir of the same name (originally printed as Through the Valley of the Kwai) by Ernest Gordon, a young man from Scotland who was captured by the Japanese during WWII. The movie tells the story of Gordon’s (Ciaran McMenamin) imprisonment in Burma where he was forced to labor on the project that inspired Alec Guinness’ The Bridge on the River Kwai. He finds himself in brutal conditions, struggling for survival with a ragtag group of POWs including his commanding officer (James Cosmo), brash and defiant Maj. Ian Campbell (Robert Carlyle), jaded American lieutenant Jim Reardon (Kiefer Sutherland), and the quiet and deeply spiritual Dusty Miller (Mark Strong). As conditions deteriorate and their captors become more and more savage and demanding, the prisoners face the crucial choice between violent rebellion or an even more dangerous option – love for their enemies.
Plainly put, this is what Christian filmmaking ought to be – not a lousy attempt to rip off popular culture (see: Left Behind), but a movie that simply and beautifully tells a redemptive story. Screenwriter Brian Godawa (himself an evangelical Christian) crafts a movie about ideas without becoming overly preachy and director David L. Cunningham turns a shoestring budget into a well crafted film. The cast is good – especially Sutherland and Carlyle – but the real star is the story. The picture of true heroism that is painted is one that is incredibly moving and extremely relevant to Christians from all walks of life. Here, we have a picture of how to love one’s enemies in even the most extreme of circumstances – an idea that sadly is too often neglected by believers. This is a quiet, introspective film, so don’t go in expecting Saving Private Ryan. However, a war film with very little war gives us the opportunity to look inside the characters with a depth sometimes not often present in the genre. All-in-all, the next time you want to watch a film that will be deeply moving and cause you to reflect on the love and grace of Christ, give To End All Wars a shot.
To End All Wars is rated R for strong war violence and some language.
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