Published on May 12th, 2011 | by Chris


To End All Wars (2001)

Reviewed by:
On May 12, 2011
Last modified:October 3, 2012


an excellent, if difficult-to-watch, movie about finding humanity where there isn't any.

To End All Wars (2001)Don't mistake To End All Wars for just another rehash of The Bridge on the River Kwai.  While the topic-at-hand is the same, the setting the same, and yeah, more or less the gist of the thing is the same, this movie delivers a bit more gut-wrenching reality to the screen, and a slightly different message, if not as epic in scope and presentation.  This time, also, its based on a true story of the same name (which of course I haven't read.... shame on me.)

We follow a new band of British POW's into a Japanese camp, in Thailand, in 1941.  Among them are Capt. Ernest Gordon, author of the above mentioned book (Ciarán McMenamin), Maj. Ian Campbell (Robert Carlyle), Dusty Miller (Mark Strong), and American Jim Reardon (Kiefer Sutherland).  As in "River Kwai" (almost in defiance of it actually) their officer-in-charge Lt. Col McLean (James Cosmo) protests their treatment, and is immediately executed.

From there thing only get worse for the prisoners, as they are forced to build the infamous Burmese railroad, and have only their wits to keep from going completely insane.  They make the best of their situation as is possible, stealthily using Gordon's knowledge to hold classes on everything from Shakespeare to Plato.  In part to keep him from going crazy, but eventually to give them all something to live for.

The reality is of course in stark contrast to "Kwai" as they are dealing with a brutal camp commander, Ito (Sakae Kimura) who is just royally pissed-off at having been sent here.  It seems that this detail is a 'dishonorable' one, and Ito takes it out on the prisoners on a daily basis.  There is one among the Japanese, though, who is stuck between his duty to the Emperor and Sergeant and a higher moral imperative, Cambridge-educated translator Nagase (Yugo Saso.)

The end of the situation comes as Allied forces make inroads towards the camp, the staff flees, and the prisoners take over, turning the tables on Ito.  One last moral test awaits them (no spoilers here!) and the cavalry arrives.

For me, anyway, the high point of this film, after watching the misery and stench-of-death of the camp put on screen, was the ending montage of real-life Ernest Gordon and Takashi Nagase meeting in person after so many years, and their reconciliation of the situation.

Here's a great link to read if you haven't read the book and want a bit more background on the real story.

Basically its an excellent, if difficult-to-watch, movie about finding humanity where there isn't any.  In a more-real package than "Kwai" ever delivered.  I have to cave and give it eight, as I wasn't expecting it to be as good a movie as it was.  Not perfect, but still worth watching.  Here's the trailer.

To End All Wars To End All Wars
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A Japanese P.O.W. camp during World War II becomes the battleground for the souls as well as the lives of its Scottish and British prisoners. Based on a true story, To End All Wars centers around Ernest Gordon (Ciaran McMenamin), a young soldier who wants to teach philosophy...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Manufacturer: 20th Century Fox
Original Release Date:
  • Robert Carlyle
  • Kiefer Sutherland
  • Ciarán McMenamin
  • Mark Strong
  • Yûgo Sasô


  • Full Screen and Widescreen
  • Director's Commentary
  • Behind The Scenes Documentary


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To End All Wars (2001) Chris

Summary: an excellent, if difficult-to-watch, movie about finding humanity where there isn't any.


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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.

2 Responses to To End All Wars (2001)

  1. I watched this a while back and totally agree, it is very good and I need to re-watch and possibly review it as well.

  2. henry says:

    to end all wars is much about forgiveness self-control long suffering situation that bring us forth how we stand to our own wars not just by what we know and see but the innermost wars that we fought in everyday in our lives that truly the hard way of terror until we become victor in one day as we fought the good fight and finished the good race the liberation comes on our way too and to set us free from the bondage of imprisonment and someday these to end all wars end sometimes somewhere someday in the mightiness hand of All Mighty our Great Hope who also gave us His Spirit .I have not read the book yet.

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