End of the Spear
Based on a true story, the slow moving, beautifully shot End of the Spear certainly has its moments. But with a lack of star power in front of the camera and a novice behind it, the film probably won't get very far.
Everyone involved in End of the Spear does indeed, in one way or another, end up facing a spear of some kind. The film dramatizes the real-life story of the Waodani people--a violent Ecuadorian society living in the Amazon jungle--and the five young missionaries who, in the early 60s, tried to communicate peace with them. Lead by Nate Saint (Chad Allen), the five men make contact with the tribe but are brutally speared by Waodani leader Mincayani (Louie Leonardo) and his fellow warriors. Then, in an odd twist, some of the slain men's family members, including Nate's young son, Steve (Chase Ellison), go and live with the Waodani in a continued attempt to promote peace. But as Steve grows up, he is haunted by his beloved father's death, while Mincayani struggles with his past actions and his ever changing world. Steve (also Chad Allen) returns to the jungle, and he and Mincayani finally have a meeting of the spears, er, minds, so to speak.
Remember little Chad Allen from the 80s TV show Our House? Exactly. But although the former child actor hasn't done anything of major note since, his performance in Spear is a worthy effort. Here, the actor adequately distinguishes the roles of the saintly father and the grounded grown-up son. Ellison, meanwhile, with his angelic yet inquisitive face, aptly conveys the pain of losing his father in the role of the young Steve Saint. But while Leonardo is convincing as the virile but conflicted Mincayani trying fit in with the modern world, the actor loses much of his punch as the charcter's older older incarnation, who has apparently given up his violent ways (something which isn't explained clearly in the film).
Writer/director Jim Hanon already detailed this real-life story in his 2005 documentary Beyond the Gates--but apparently felt that wasn't enough. Someone should have advised him it was. Hanon, a former advertising executive, has a nice touch as a documentary filmmaker, putting moviegoers right in the middle of the lush tropical surroundings, but he lacks the skills to make a cohesive feature film. It's far more fascinating to watch the real Ecuadorian people struggle to reconcile their violent culture with their peaceful lives than it is to watch a dramatization of the events, complete with clichéd dialogue and stiff acting. The feature is simply ineffective and fails to give the actual story any more resonance.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 stars.