TO END ALL WARS
Based on Captain Ernest Gordonís (Ciaran McMenamin) own true story of his capture by the Japanese, together with men of his regiment, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who end up forced to build the infamous Railway of Death. Over 400 kms in less than 18 months, on scant rations and weakened by illness, brutalised by the Japanese guards. Gordon tries teaching other prisoners a range of subjects, including Christian ethics, and many respond positively. But Major Ian Campbell (Robert Carlyle) sees Gordonís influence as a negative to his own plans, and tension intensifies between Gordon, Campbell and the sole American prisoner, Lt Tom Reardon (Keifer Sutherland), which threaten to do as much damage as the Japanese. And when faced with the test of putting Christian belief into practice, everyone learns something Ė about themselves and about the essence of the human condition.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:†
At what price mercy? Thatís the question Ernest Gordon poses at the end of this film. And itís a good question, a Christian question. Like most films with similar settings, this is harrowing and humbling in turn, showing manís nobility as well as his baseness. The factual basis of the story resonates throughout the film, adding gravitas to what is already a hefty story.†
Deeply moving and searing in its portrayal of the hell these men went through, the filmís visceral power is matched by its craft skills Ė make up, music, production design and everything else - and by outstanding, haunting performances.†
Robert Carlyle shows his best edge, a complex and emotive performance that gathers a variety of responses from us, while Kiefer Sutherland shows what he is capable of when stretched. Ciaran McMenaminís Ernest Gordon gives us a genuine insight into the man who tells the story, and the Japanese cast are stunning.†
A couple of Australians, especially John Gregg, feature in small support roles, completing a large cast and crew that obviously slaved over the production with great dedication and passion. A healing coda at the end, when two of the actual protagonists meet 55 years after the war, adds significantly to the filmís profoundly felt message: the courage and strength to forgive, and so to heal. War makes everyone victims.
NOTE: The DVD also contains a 30 minute documentary on the making of the film. Itís a heartfelt documentary that expands on the filmís humanity, and is not about the mechanics of the filmmaking, but of its emotional ambitions. Put together like a real doco, the interviews explore the filmís core issues make it almost as moving as the film itself.
Email this article
JOHN GREGG INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban
TO END ALL WARS (MA)
CAST: Robert Carlyle, Kiefer Sutherland, Ciaran McMenamin, Mark Strong, Sakae Kimura, Masayuki Yui, John Gregg, James Cosmo
PRODUCER: Jack Hafer, David L. Cunningham
DIRECTOR: David L. Cunningham
SCRIPT: Brian Godawa (from book by Ernest Gordon)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Greg Gardiner
EDITOR: Tim Silano
MUSIC: John Cameron
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paul Sylbert
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: 21st Century Pictures
VIDEO RELEASE: November 27, 2002 (also on DVD)