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These filmmakers are on a mission

MOVIE REVIEW

In 'End of the Spear,' an evangelical docudrama, widows convert killers of five missionaries.

January 20, 2006|Robert Abele | Special to The Times

Scored to a thematic blend of tense jungle drums and choral voices, the slickly produced Christian docudrama "End of the Spear" recounts with spiritual breathlessness the circumstances surrounding the real-life killings of five missionaries at the hands of a violent indigenous Amazon tribe in Ecuador in 1956.

The story doesn't lack for exoticism or scope, but this version has no room for moral thorniness about issues such as cultural interference: The Waodani's relentless spear-hurling warfare -- depicted with terrifying brio -- is a visceral evil, while salvation literally comes from above as the bright yellow Piper plane materializes and bewildered tribespeople crane their necks upward.

Director Jim Hanon films the missionaries' shocking deaths with all the martyr-steeped intensity he can muster. But as their widows boldly and beatifically carry the torch of evangelizing (and westernizing) the Waodani -- to avoid in-your-face Christianity, the writers substitute talk of God and the Bible with lines like "Waengongi marked his trail with carvings" -- what creeps in is the dramatic simple-mindedness attendant with a purity-of-purpose mind-set.

Time is bided until the inevitable images of born-again warriors breaking their weapons in two and, years later, a fatherless son (Chad Allen) forgiving his dad's once-savage/now-pacifist killer (Louie Leonardo). Moviegoers who prefer the sterner "eye for an eye" biblical ethos in their adventure sagas might be disappointed.

*

`End of the Spear'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence

An Every Tribe Entertainment release. Director Jim Hanon. Producers Bill Ewing, Mart Green, Tom Newman, Bart Gavigan. Screenplay Bart Gavigan, Jim Hanon, Bill Ewing. Director of photography Robert A. Driskell Jr. Editor Miles Hanon. Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes.

In general release.

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