The Power of Forgiveness
Much as I enjoy a good revenge movie, End of the Spear intrigued me even more with its fascinating depiction of how missionaries helped the Waodani give up excessive violence, even after the tribesmen killed five of their group who tried to make contact with them. Based on a true story, this thought-provoking film features a high level of suspense, exciting cinematography and an unforgettable performance by Louie Leonardo as Mincayani, an ultimately repentant Waodani warrior.
Because Mincayani lives by the Waodani motto of “spear or be speared,” he can’t understand why five men flying into the jungle on a wooden bee won’t fight back when attacked. After spearing one of these strange men, he finds a likeness of a young boy in the airplane and this also puzzles him. He doesn’t know the youngster is the son of the man he killed. Imagine Mincayani’s surprise when the boy (Chase Ellison, immensely appealing here) turns up later as part of another missionary visit. It will take many years before Mincayani reveals to the grown up Steve Saint (Chad Allen) what actually happened to his father on that fateful day.
The raw physicality of Leonardo’s (Shaft) acting and his emotionally expressive face as his character goes through tremendous changes made quite an impression on me. Allen (Paris) is also very believable in the final confrontation scene when his character struggles over how to deal with Mincayani’s revelation.
End of the Spear opens with the adult Steve and Mincayani on a river journey. The rest of the film is told in flashbacks with calm and distinct voice-over narration by Allen. I was immediately drawn into the story because of my strong curiosity concerning where these two men were going and why. As it turns out, they had already made a much longer emotional and religious journey together.
I realize director and co-writer (with Bill Ewing and Bart Gavigan) Jim Hanon used dramatic license in adapting this inspiring story for the screen. His documentary, Beyond the Gates of Splendor, probably gives a more factual account of the real missionaries and Ecuadorial tribesmen involved. Still, although horrific violence permeates numerous scenes in End of the Spear, this movie never falters in emphasizing its Christian message about the power of forgiveness and how important it is to love your enemies.
NOTE: Be sure to sit through the closing credits to see a few clips of the real Steve and Mincayani.
(Released by Jungle Films LLC and rated “PG-13” for intense sequences of violence.)