Fictionalized (rather transparently) from a skinny, young Scottish soldier's autobiography about life in a Japanese POW camp during World War II, "To End All Wars" is too over-scripted to live up to its emotional and psychological potential.
Uncreatively narrated by Ciarán McMenamin, who otherwise plays author Ernest Gordon quite earnestly, it's a tale of the sacrifice, redemption, forgiveness and wavering morale of captured Allied troops forced to build a Japanese supply-line railroad (something they're rarely shown actually doing).
But while inexperienced director David L. Cunningham intends his picture to be heartfelt and dignified, he's burdened by stock characters (drunken prison commander, sympathetic Japanese translator without the stomach for war), by stock situations (the "What are you gonna do when you get home" scene, etc.) and by Hollywoodisms, like the fact that every major character remains clean-shaven, healthy-looking and well-fed despite malnutrition and bouts with malaria and diphtheria.
Robert Carlyle (as a rebellious fellow prisoner) and Kiefer Sutherland (as a Yank shoe-horned into the story for American audiences) help keep "Wars" afloat through its heavy-handed Christ symbolism and still more clichés (Shakespeare quotes as emotional shorthand). But the best part of the picture is the closing-credits footage of a modern prisoner-and-guard reunion, coupled with real archival photos from the camp depicted.
**1/2 (117m | R)
-- By Rob Blackwelder