Released on March 26th on VOD by director David L. Cunningham and Argyll Film Productions comes the reality based on a book by Ernest Gordon TO END ALL WARS.
This film tells the story of a band of soldiers that are captured by the Japanese during World War II. Sent to a prison camp they immediately realize that the Geneva Convention is not recognized in any way. In Burma these POW’s from a Scottish regiment are faced with the bushido belief that Westerners are inferior.
Treated with harsh discipline, the group learns they will be used to build a bridge over the Kwai River. As moral wanes, it is Capt. Ernest Gordon (Ciaran McMenamin) who starts a jungle university within the camp to help the men keep their minds sharp. It not only helps the prisoners but also does not go unnoticed by the leader of the camp, especially by Capt. Noguchi (Masayiku Yui).
But the camp isn’t without its own internal struggle as Yankee Lt. Jim Reardon (Kiefer Sutherland) refuses to give up his rebellious ways and Mag. Ian Campbell (Robert Carlyle) is the naysayer of all things within the Scottish regiment. With the soft temperament of Dusty Miller (Mark Strong), it takes time for them all to come together.
Can they remain strong until the end?
FINAL WORD: McMenamin as Gordon is stunning. His presence is neither combative nor blaming. Instead he is accepting that the situation is as it is and finds ways to keep the men focused. I dare to think what would have happened to the men without the jungle university and McMenamin makes it believable.
Carlyle as Campbell gets a chance to be the naysayer here and he does so quite well. Like a dog with a bone he maintains his stance throughout the entire film and it isn’t until a brutal scene (no, I’m not telling you!) does his character begin to understand the depths and consequences of his actions.
Sutherland as Reardon is actually referred to as the Yanker (Yankee and wanker mixed). He is arrogant and refuses to follow any rules. When he sees how the regiment reacts to confinement, Sutherland’s character watches the changes. The best part of Sutherland’s performance is his reflective moments as if he’s deciding where his loyalties truly lie.
Strong as Miller is absolutely endearing in such a painful way. It is quite clear that being in prison changes his character to the point of total acceptance but in such a way that doesn’t destroy but instead centers him. He is the soothing voice of reason when things get scary. I truly enjoy this performance.
Yui as Noguchi is the epitome of a tyrant who is angry more with being stuck in the middle of Burma in a war than with the prisoners. That doesn’t stop him from performing horrific acts on prisoners. Kimura as Sgt. Ito is another voice of reason from the Japanese side but he has the knowledge of these prisoners that Noguchi doesn’t.
Other cast include: Masayuki Yui as Capt. Noguchi, John Gregg as Dr. Coates, Shu Nakajima as Nagatomo, Greg Ellis as Sgt. Roger Primrose, Pip Torrens as Lt. Foxworth, James McCarthy as Norman, Brendan Cowell as Wallace Hamilton, Winton Nicholson as Duncan and James Cosmo as Lt. Col. Stuart McLean
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give TO END ALL WARS four tubs of popcorn out of five. This certainly is a gut wrenching film from beginning to end but also beautiful. Each performance from these actors is so touching and amazing. Yes, there are moments when the jaw drops because it’s hard to believe that human beings are capable of such things. If one believes that war changes everyone – then this film is proof of that.
I have seen the film BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI but personally had much more emotion and feeling about TO END ALL WARS. This film is about the realities of war and how human beings either find the will to survive or succumb. These men chose to remember who they were, what they believed and had hope for a future waiting for them outside captivity.
In the end – in a prison of brutal confinement, they found freedom!
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