5 July 2005 | rsimanski
A "War" Movie That's About Values, Not War
I am a serious film lover who keeps up with the best new films. I stumbled across To End All Wars when it was shown recently on one of the Starz/Encore channels. At the end, I kept asking myself why I had never heard of it. The film is nowhere to be found in Roger Ebert's reviews or Leonard Maltin's annual guide, and yet I suspect that Ebert, at least, would rate this film very highly.
I like films that are about something that is important, at least to me, and not just pure entertainment. Not that I don't enjoy a good action-adventure film or light comedy from time to time, but most of the time, I prefer to spend my time watching films that make me think and perhaps even ask questions of myself.
To End All Wars is one such film. The Bridge on the River Kwai, which deals with the same historical events, is not, despite its many strong points. In this respect, To End All Wars is the better film, and the one that I am more likely to watch frequently.
Despite its title, the film is not really about war. What it is about is the efforts of a small group of men, and one man in particular, to maintain their faith, their sense of values, and their very sanity under horrible, murderous conditions that would drive most men to insanity or to become murderers themselves.
The film forces me to ask myself whether I could have done the same under those conditions. To be honest, I'm afraid to ask the question because I may not like the answer.
Although the film depicts many horrible things, it is not a depressing film, at least for me. Rather, it's a positive, hopeful film, in the same way that Schindler's List is a positive, hopeful film. If one man, in the case of Schindler, or a small group of men, in the case of the ones in this film, can maintain their sanity, faith, and values in a world that has gone insane, then there is hope for mankind.
As for the references to their Christian faith, it is not laid on with a trowel, as it might be in a lesser film. It is simply there as an important part of their lives. Whether or not we share that faith is beside the point. What is important is that they shared it, and that faith helped them to survive.
Could the director and the writers have made their points even more effectively? Probably. Would I have liked to have known more about the individual characters? Definitely. Would the film have benefited from a larger budget? Possibly.
All of these questions are moot, however. Every film deserves to be judged on its own terms, on the basis of what it is and not what it might have been. Not every film can be another Citizen Kane or Rules of the Game, nor should it be.
Taken on its own merits, To End All Wars is an excellent film that I expect to watch many times and recommend to my family and friends as well. The fact that the film never got proper distribution, at least in the United States, and therefore never got the recognition that it deserves, shows just how shallow and superficial the Hollywood film industry has become. Thankfully it is available on DVD.