The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

PG   |    |  Adventure, Drama, War


The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Poster

After settling his differences with a Japanese P.O.W. camp commander, a British colonel co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors, while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.


8.2/10
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  • "Bridge On The River Kwai, The" William Holden 1957 Columbia
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  • William Holden in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

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Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews


10 December 1999 | Wormtongue1
10
| A powerful film experience
I heard a film critic once say that there really aren't "war movies"; there are only "anti-war" movies. I'm still not sure what I think of that claim, but having seen - The Bridge on the River Kwai- enough times in the past several years, I think I'm persuaded that it's at least half right. -Kwai-, I believe, is both a "war" and "anti-war" movie, and, in my view, it succeeds admirably at both.

There is almost no element of -Kwai- that is not praise-worthy. David Lean's direction is tight and evocative. The cinematography is great (even though the color seems increasingly drained in film versions that I have seen). The acting is top-notch. I honestly believe that this is Alec Guiness's best performance, and Sessue Hayakawa is also highly sympathetic and believable. William Holden and Jack Hawkins round out the cast nicely.

The musical score is also right on. Simply put, -Kwai- is an excellently constructed film made by people who obviously cared a great deal about it. As a result, the viewer comes to care a great deal about it as well.

Clearly -Kwai- is an anti-war film. There is no glorification here. War is brutal, period. It's brutality is not captured here in terms of gory carnage or senseless battles. Instead, the psychological dimension of brutality comes across clearly. Yet, -Kwai- also shows the resilience of the human spirit as well as its complexity. One is left wondering if participation in World War II not only psychologically brutalized the characters played by Guiness, Hayakawa, and Holden but also if it simultaneously uplifted them. The paradox is striking to me each time I view this film. War can act both as a positive and negative catalyst, and it can do both of these things at the same instant.

So, is -The Bridge on the River Kwai- a war movie or an anti-war movie? I think Lean clearly preferred the latter, but the subject matter and his approach to it may have landed somewhere in between.

Regardless, -Kwai- is a fantastic film experience and is not to be missed. It is, simply put, my very favorite film--bar none.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sessue Hayakawa really did (accidentally) strike Sir Alec Guinness hard enough to draw blood in one scene. As evidenced in the movie, Guinness played the scene without flinching.


Quotes

Major Clipton: The fact is, what we're doing could be construed as - forgive me, sir - collaboration with the enemy. Perhaps even as treasonable activity.
Colonel Nicholson: Are you alright, Clipton? We're prisoners of war, we haven't the right to refuse work.
Major Clipton: I understand that, sir...


Goofs

Col. Nicholson is taken into Col. Saito's office to be beaten after standing all day in the sun at approximately 11 minutes into the film. The enlisted men notice the Japanese soldiers are bringing clubs into the office to beat him. But the enlisted men had not returned from their first day's work at this point in the movie. Yet, they shout protests of "leave him alone!" gathered out side Saito's office.


Crazy Credits

And introducing Geoffrey Horne


Alternate Versions

Various versions have different main credits. There is the original that gives screenplay credit to Pierre Boulle, there is the restored version in which previously blacklisted Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson are credited and there is the original version that was distributed to cinemas at the time still lacking in CinemaScope equipment in which the Cinema Scope credit is omitted and the credits formatted to fit the smaller frame.


Soundtracks

For He's a Jolly Good Fellow
(uncredited)
Traditional
Sung by the British Prisoners of War after Nicholson is put in the oven

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Adventure | Drama | War

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