Peter’s post below about the Washington Post Book Review of Surviving the Sword provides the opportunity to bring up the best movie you’ve never heard of, To End All Wars. This movie tells the true story of Ernest Gordon, a Scottish regimental soldier captured in Singapore in 1942 and sent to a Japanese labor camp in Thailand.
The movie, which stars Keifer Sutherland ("24") and Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty) is extraordinary. In addition to its gritty accuracy, it tells a story of philosophical and spiritual redemption for the survivors. (Ernest Gordon went on to become chaplain of Princeton University, and died three years ago shortly after the film was completed. The last scene of the movie is real footage of Gordon reconciling with the Japanese camp translator in a war cemetary in Thailand.)
If this were a just world, the filmakers would have a shelf full of Oscars. But despite winning several regional film festivals, the movie never made it to general release in part because it defies all the Hollywood conventions, and all the usual distribution studios were scared to touch the film and had no idea how it could be marketed. But you can order the DVD from Amazon by clicking the link above. You will not be disappointed. You also won’t be able to stop thinking about it for a week.
The film’s producer, Jack Hafer, is a good friend of mine, and tells me that he showed the movie to a number of camp survivors, who all said that it was leagues beyond Bridge on the River Kwai (which they thought was rather cartoonish compared to their real experience), and that, despite To End All War’s graphic violence that earned it an R-rating, it wasn’t violent enough.