Posted by: newperspectives85 | December 12, 2011

Review on End of the Spear

“Dare to make contact”


Copyrighted by distributorThe dramatic event of the murder of five missionaries in the jungles of Ecuador in 1956 can be told in numerous ways from numerous perspectives. In the brilliantly titled film “End of the Spear”, several of these various points of view are included, but the one that transcends them all is the personal story of Steve Saint, son to one of the five missionaries killed. It is Steve Saints experience that begins and ends this redemptive drama, but his tale is one that highlights a theme that runs throughout all of the tales: the divine concept of forgiveness.

The question raised at the beginning of this film—although not completely clear—is how will one man respond when he meets face to face with the very men who murdered his father. This is the same story that is explored in the documentary film “Through Gates of Splendor” (also directed by Jim Hanon), which takes us through various events leading up to Steve Saint returning to the very place his father lost his life and facing the men responsible for his fathers death.

This narrative account, “The End of the Spear”, first flashes back to 1943 and gives us background into the indigenous Waodani people of Ecuador. It emphasizes the relationship Steve (Chad Allen) had with his father as a child, highlights the missionary endeavor and tragedy, and retells how this violent tribe of people is changed by the Gospel and the power of God. Other subplots and key characters, such as Dayumae (Christina Souza) and her relationship with Nate Saints sister, Rachel (Sara Kathryn Bakker) are briefly described in the film, but the focus remains on the personal journey of Steve Saint and the difficulty he must face.

The filmmakers for “End of the Spear” have managed to keep a Gospel message in the retelling of this story. In the scene where the Gospel is most clearly laid out, Dayumae, who has become a believer, shares with her people how the “carvings of Waengongi” (the Word of God) teaches them not to kill each other. She explains that Waengongi (God) once had a Son who was speared, but that He did not retaliate. It is the most straightforward depiction of the Gospel message, showing how Christ Jesus suffered unto death, but did not take revenge. This is a key point for the Waodani culture, since they live and die by the spear.

While this scene is very meaningful and poignant, at first it was not clear to me who they were referring to when they said “Waengongi.” Someone else also thought it may have just been another person in the tribe, but it soon became obvious in this scene that they were referring to God. Not that this is a prerequisite for telling this story, but there is no recollection of the word “God” (other than Waengongi) or the name “Jesus” ever spoken in the film. It would seem that, due to the subject matter, it might have been helpful to emphasize these a little more.

Apart from various semantics regarding names and titles involving the spiritual significance of the story, the facts and the events themselves are ones that teach these biblical concepts well enough. For instance, the fact that these five missionary men contacted the Waodani tribe with absolute love and pure motives and willingly died in an attempt to lead them to Christ, parallels what Jesus has done for us in giving His life as a sacrifice. Further, it is highlighted several times that these five missionary men—when they were attacked—were armed and could have fought back. They did not. This fact alone was crucial for the Waodani in understanding the Gospel. This point led them to realize that the five men were out to help them and not to hurt them, and it gave the Waodani an example to follow in not killing any more.

Again, this film could have many different perspectives, and, if you know the story in any other way already, you may notice various aspects that have been left out. For example, we see Dayumae throughout the story, but don’t see the process she goes through in coming to faith in Christ. Similarly, we don’t see Mincayani explicitly surrender to Christ. Perhaps because this is not always easy to show on film (i.e., a prayer of faith to God showing absolute trust in Him), what is emphasized are the different actions the Waodani people take. This is primarily shown in the fact that these people increasingly ceased to spear and kill each other. They use visual actions, such as Kimo (Jack Guzman) breaking a spear in half and refusing to fight. It is clear depictions like this that show us that these people are changed, but it feels as if the reason behind these actions is not emphasized enough. The only way these men could have done this is because of the power of God and through their faith in Him. The main decision-making we see is with Steve Saint and the choices faced at the end.

This is a wonderful and amazing story, but “End of the Spear” feels like it limits some of the heart behind the things that happen. In the beginning, it is mentioned that these five men are missionaries, but it does not show the heart behind why they are excited to “reach” the Waodani. As a believer in Christ, one can understand it, but the passion behind loving these people felt a little circumvented. There were many things that were done right in this production, but when dealing with something that is so precious to so many, it is hoped that it will be told just as meaningfully as we know the story already.

The quality of the filmmaking is decent and works fairly well overall. The filmmakers have managed to curtail the violence, although there are several fairly graphic scenes involving people being speared to death. The sound effects of people being speared seem to be muted to a degree so as to not bombard our senses. This violence is the reason for the PG-13 rating.

There are many angles that this story could have been told from, but perhaps Steve Saints point of view was chosen because it spans so many years. He was a child when his father was killed, and now, as an adult, he has gone to live again in the Ecuadorian jungle with the Waodani people. A potent incident that happened in the real story, which was left out in this film, is how Steve was baptized by one of the very men who killed his father. Other events seem to be added in to help tell this story that may or may not have been true, but nevertheless are used to help convey its meaning.

At times, it felt like this film was trying to do too much. Perhaps certain events could have been left out in order to streamline the story. Another angle this film could have been taken from is through Rachel Saint, the first missionary to contact the Waodani, and also the one to lead the first Waodani believer, Dayumae, to Christ. It is then through Dayumae that her people hear the Gospel. The death of the five men also plays a key part in that process.

This is an important story to be told, and it should be celebrated that a version of it has made it into the mainstream media. It is worth supporting and can be beneficial to a wide variety of audiences.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: None / Sex: None



  1. I believe you have noted some very interesting points , thankyou for the post.

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