Published on May 12th, 2011 | by Chris


To End All Wars (2001)

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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


Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Triumphant and Heartbreaking Story, March 24, 2015
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Few movies demonstrate the high aspirations of the soul of the human male. This movie exceeds mere demonstration. Instead, it truthfully depicts how amid human deprivation and human cruelty the souls of males, the souls of men, can aspire for and reach intangible grandeur though their bodies have wasted away. In such conditions in which the characters of this story lived, their aspiring to reach a nobler aspiration required of them to struggle against great odds to surpass degradation of inflicted inhumanity occurring during war as prisoners of war. As the story portrays even if one (a male) is the victim, to achieve true humanity, a quality never to be lost, if he were to humble oneself as Christ then his humanity is not a casualty of war.

This movie celebrates the culture of integrity of the British military tradition. God, country, and the refinement of study highlight this story.This is a heartbreaking story. But triumphant one as well.

Kiefer Sutherland is... Read more
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Intense Film., March 9, 2010
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This review is from: To End All Wars (DVD)
One of my Amazon friends initially recommended this film to me and after reading Ernest Gordon's powerful memoir "To End all Wars", I decided to give the film a try. Rarely has a film surpassed my expectations as much as this one did.

"To End all Wars" is a fictionalized portrayal of the true story of Scottish Captain (and later chaplin at Princeton) Ernest Gordon's coming to faith while a POW working on the infamously brutal Thai Burma Railway built for the Japanes in WWII. The film's subject matter alone gave it the potential to be a solid personalized War film. Afterall I liked David Lean's even more fictionalized "Bridge on the River Kwai" set during the construction of the same railway. In terms of drama though, "To End all Wars" blows Lean's film out of the water.

The acting is solid from about every member of the cast. Robert Carlyle gives a very memorable performance as a Scottish officer though frankly this film is full of excellent acting on... Read more
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story about courage and sacrifice on the Thai-Burma railroad in 1942, November 17, 2014
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This is the true story of a British prisoner of war who was forced to help work on the Thai-Burma railroad in 1942. The story tries to tie all the details of the approximately 142 mile railroad into the story of one group of prisoners. The author of the book was an officer of the group who found himself near death, and with help brought himself back to health. He found a group of fellow prisoners who wanted to learn and established a Jungle University. The Japanese camp commander did not understand what he was doing, and one of his fellow officers - who was bent on revenge and escape - did all he could to undermine the education effort. The whole story is one of personal courage and has a religious overtone with the one who helped the man survive and come back from the death house was a believer in the Bible. The book attempts to cover the whole building of the railroad while in reality the prisoners were placed in separate camps to build sections with many camps working at the same... Read more
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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.


User Rating: 0 (0 votes)

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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