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The Bridge on the River Kwai
Year:
1957
Country:
USA, UK
Genre:
Drama, Adventure, War
IMDB rating:
8.3
Director:
David Lean
William Holden as Shears
Alec Guinness as Colonel Nicholson
Jack Hawkins as Major Warden
Sessue Hayakawa as Colonel Saito
James Donald as Major Clipton
Geoffrey Horne as Lieutenant Joyce
André Morell as Colonel Green (as Andre Morell)
Peter Williams as Captain Reeves
John Boxer as Major Hughes
Percy Herbert as Grogan
Ann Sears as Nurse
Heihachiro Okawa as Captain Kanematsu (as Henry Okawa)
Keiichirô Katsumoto as Lieutenant Miura (as K. Katsumoto)
Storyline: The film deals with the situation of British prisoners of war during World War II who are ordered to build a bridge to accommodate the Burma-Siam railway. Their instinct is to sabotage the bridge but, under the leadership of Colonel Nicholson, they are persuaded that the bridge should be constructed as a symbol of British morale, spirit and dignity in adverse circumstances. At first, the prisoners admire Nicholson when he bravely endures torture rather than compromise his principles for the benefit of the Japanese commandant Saito. He is an honorable but arrogant man, who is slowly revealed to be a deluded obsessive. He convinces himself that the bridge is a monument to British character, but actually is a monument to himself, and his insistence on its construction becomes a subtle form of collaboration with the enemy. Unknown to him, the Allies have sent a mission into the jungle, led by Warden and an American, Shears, to blow up the bridge.
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Reviews
Award-winning rendition about famed novel with extraordinaries performances and scenarios
In the luxurious jungle of Thailand, British prisoners(Alec Guinnes, James Donald,Percy Herbert, among others) of WWII captured in the fall of Singapur are taken by Japanese wards for building a railway bridge on the trail since Bangcock until Rangun. With extraordinary appearance when the prisoners arrive in the POW war camp whistle the title song,the Colonel Bogey March. Central plot is the troublesome relationship between the obstinate Colonel Nicholson(Alec Guinnes) and cruel ruler, Colonel Saito(Sessue Hayakawa) and parallel efforts by escaped convict(William Holden), officer (Jack Hawkins) and soldier(Geoffrey Horne) to destroy it.

This excellent film , winner of numerous Oscars is magnificently directed by David Lean. However , first was slated Alexander Korda , but he withdrew due he deemed wrong the main roles. Also was originally considered Howard Hawks, but he abandoned, especially concern was the all male lead characters and because his previous film, Land of the pharaohs, failed at the Box office. Gary Grant was firstly hired , but declined due to other offers and was substituted by William Holden. Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson were uncredited , but were blacklisted as suspect communists and only appears credited Pierre Boulle who won Academy Award for best adapted script , though he didn't know English language. In 1984 when the movie was restored, they retrospectively won the prize, but sadly they had dead, however their names were justly added to writing credits. The famous march whistle by prisoners ,is original from 1916 titled ¨Bollocks and the same for you¨ by the Mayor Ricketts, a chief of musical band and the real words were obscene, later is re-titled the Colonel Bogey March. Deservedly won the Oscar for best musical score by Malcolm Arnold. The actual bridge was built by prisoners in two months and constructed for film was four months with help elephants and by hundred workers and length of 425 feet long and 50 foot above the water, in Ceylon location. But was demolished in a matter of seconds, as is reflected splendidly in the movie.
2008-01-24
Unrealistic Hollywood style cartoon
I have a deep admiration for David Lean as the director who pushed the boundaries of film making far beyond, and set the marker not only in technical aspects of the craft, but often in atmosphere and feel of the film. His movies are beautiful to watch and that's why sometimes we can't see how bad the cake tastes from all the icing and decorations. "The Bridge on the River Kwai" is like that, sticky sweet but ultimately nauseating. Every time a movie parts from reality we observe a genre, and the intention of film maker, along with symbolism it's trying to project. War movies in particular have to be true to the bone (unless they're parodies) because they represent the bestiality of mankind, and duality of man. This film tried to portray those essential elements but fell into Hollywood blender and came out silly and unrealistic.

First and foremost, anybody who even remotely knows anything about Japanese tradition, military culture social and military codes and character of Japanese man, can only laugh at pitiful Colonel Saito who is not only without any remorselessness, but looks like a powerless teacher on the first day in a new school, being played like a flute by honorable Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness),who not only survives days, locked in a tin box in tropical heat and humidity, but wins every concession for his troops he can think of, making the poor Colonel Saito cry at the end of one of his parades of will?!? Japanese soldiers and camp commanders were "very well known" for their compassion, sensitivity and sensibility which was expressed many times during the war, especially in Wake Island massacre, Manila massacre and Bataan Death March, so even the hint of Colonel Nicholson's behavior would result in quick decapitation. William Holden with his tanned biceps glowing in the sun is a true picture of starved Japanese prisoner, and his escape, along with return through the jungle in 50's style loafers (observe the scene where he and his band of sturdy man are being washed by Burmese women prior to attacking the bridge), is down right preposterous. Building a bridge as a monument to his ego is possible way of expression for "open only in a case of war" type of character Col. Nicholson apparently is, but convincing other prisoners to join in that venture simply on "let's show 'em" premise, in those times and circumstances is not likely to happen. To complete the three-ring circus, Japanese soldiers show solidarity and play along, so at the end you're not sure what did you just see. The battle of wills, winner makes history film, anti-war film, or simply a Hollywood action movie/spectacle without any plausibility or logic? Judge for yourself. Oh, and 5 stars are only for cinematography and Holden's loafers.
2010-08-31
A Masterpiece!
During World War II, some British soldiers are ordered to surrender to the Japanese. These war prisoners are used to build a bridge across the river Kwai. In the beginning, the commanding officer refuses to do the labor job by the military. He was punished hard for his decision by the Japanese commander. But, the British officer did not change his mind. Later, negotiations take place and under the leadership of the British officer, the bridge was re designed, replace and built.

It is a very interesting movie. Too long but, it is worth watch.

It is hard to believe that this movie was released in 1957. Hats off to the Director David Lean. The cinematographer Jack Hildyard, in Cinemascope made it an amazing visual treat. Music, art, costume and all other departments shine well.

One of the most rated movies. This is a masterpiece. A must watch for all film lovers! #KiduMovie
2016-12-25
" All that effort and loss of life, madness, simply madness "
When this film appeared, in 1957, it naturally garnered many an award and much personal acclaim for director David Lean. The story itself, originally written by none other than noted French writer Pierre Boulle, who wrote the book, Planet of the Apes, was pleased with the finished project. The story is very loosely based on the actual construction endeavor, called building the Kwai bridge, is herein incorporated to include the British prisoner of war camp, run by the Japanese during World War Two. A culturally traditional, hard-nose commandant, one Col. Saito (internationally acclaimed Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa) has been given the task of constructing a railroad bridge over the river Kwai and is further ordered to have it completed by a given date. Failure is not an option. To his camp arrives an equally stubborn and somewhat arrogant British officer, one Col. Nicholson, (Alec Guinness) with several hundred POW soldiers. Already in the camp is a small detachment of American and allied soldiers who have been assailed and threatened to build the bridge. Among them is, Commander Shears (William Holden) an American POW who manages to escape the hell hole and makes it safely to a British base. Though Saito and Nicholson begin a battle of wits as to who is in command of the camp and its men, Shears is confronted by another British officer, Maj. Warden (Jack Hawkings) who asks him to return to the site of the bridge, to help him blow it up! James Donald plays Maj. Clipton, a British medical officer who watches as the various conflicting officers strive to give logic to insane goals. Every audience who views this movie, has to decided for themselves who among the officers, makes any sense to a mad-cap project. The film should be a testament to the insanity of every war. ****
2008-11-24
one of the quintessential POW/WW2 movies, with unforgettable characterizations
What does it mean to be a solider versus a prisoner? How about the meaning of a Colonel's duty, pride, and everything in a male-centric view in times of war? And really, what everything seems to come down to- in the case of The Bridge on the River Kwai- is that priorities end up being eschewed with moral ambiguity and heroism in the oddest circumstances. David's Lean's masterpiece takes a compelling look at men who wont give in, and when they do they somehow lose a piece of themselves in the process- a big part really depending on point of view &/or country- and how being ultra-tough and stubborn and headstrong may get you killed for the wrong reasons. Colonel Nicholson (Sir Alec Guiness in a very well deserved Oscar winning turn) and Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa, who is actually a really great actor as well) both don't want to give in when Nicholson arrives at Saito's camp, and refuses adamantly to work alongside the fellow soldiers on the bridge- he sees it's against the Geneva conventions, and makes it a point of principle not to do it. He's put away for a while, but then finally Saito can't take the stubbornness any more- as he knows he's been evenly matched perhaps- and has no choice (ala seppuku if not achieved) but to let him direct the building of the bridge. But what this turns into for Nicholson, as a further elongation of the principle of the matter for his men and the situation, into a really mad situation.

So in this there is also the other main section of the story, where the idea of what it is to have principles starts to pick up via 'Major' Shears (William Holden, the conventional 'star' who grows more interesting in the second half). He's not really a major, but he's done in a quasi-cowardly quasi-pragmatic move to take a major's place when taken prisoner in the camp. When he achieves escape, however, he's caught between a rock and a hard place when he has to go with Major Warden (also a headstrong, 'war is a game' character played by Jack Hawkins), otherwise he'll be dishonorably discharged as an impersonator, already with a criminal record. There's a pivotal scene when he and Warden are on their way to the bridge, which undercuts the whole bond between Nicholson and Saito, when Warden wants to be left for dead after injuring his foot. Does it make more sense to hold one's own sense of duty to a mission, or to one's self, or not? What becomes Shears's gain- a sense of obligation as opposed to being a 'have no choice' scenario- becomes Nicholson's loss. The bridge to Nicholson becomes something abstracted from what is really going on, and his original ideal of not giving in to being a prisoner becomes muddled, leading up to that incredibly tense, maddening climax where his final words punctuate it all: "what have I done?"

But it's not all completely a serious endeavor, and what's so brilliant about Lean's approach to Boulle's material is that it's also a grand old entertainment, where the characters are rich and fully engrossing (albeit with Shears's/Holden given an obligatory "I'm the star" scene with a blond on a beach that seems from a different movie), and with a scope and direction that is just as ambitious in its own right as Lawrence of Arabia. Lean occasionally lets some visual metaphors in that do work very well (the huge flock of birds flying around, and the bridge itself being a metaphor in itself of colonial interests). But for the most part he lets the atmosphere of a war-time adventure work by itself, with the cinematography and editing sometimes working in ultra-suspenseful ways (particularly with the setting up of the wires around the bridge, and 'go time'), and in a traditional way of solid storytelling. He lets the themes work through the characters, which gives the actors a lot more to work with than with pushing it down the viewer's throat. There's a sense that the boundaries of the typical POW/war movie, particularly from a British viewpoint, are stretched and expanded, questioning the means of the main characters while still showing them, in spurts, to have great merit.

And if for nothing else, the acting's really what stands out, especially in the subtle notes and turns that seem over-the-top like with Hayakawa but are really nuanced too (he, especially, has a crux to deal with in suddenly losing his own sense of duty to country as a Brit takes over his job essentially). Guiness, meanwhile, gives something extraordinary in practically every scene, when he's either reserved or having to finally break down and show emotion (it's not the first bridge he's over-seen, hence the extra amount of pride that it'll be a "British-built" bridge). As Shears notes, there's something dangerous to a man like Nicholson who wont give in, and Guiness undercuts this dangerous quality with the elegance that he's perfect at, and then lets it become full-circle when he meets his all-too-ironic end. Holden, by the way, is also quite good here, if sort of given the almost thankless role of the star who's typically cocky, and only when finally on the mission is there some opening up in relation to Hawkins's Warden; his speech to Warden is especially engrossing.

Featuring the catchiest of all whistling in the movies, and a dynamite cast and graceful and distinctively superlative directorial vision, this is one of those rare films about war where character takes precedence over action (compared to the common war movies of the period, it's only sporadic and more suggestive in the violence), not to mention in big-budget splendor, and ends up truly memorable.
2007-01-27
Bridge On the River Mae Klong
This film represents all that is wrong with Hollywood productions. I have seen this film on several occasions and found it to make good viewing. That was until I learned the true story that is so cleverly concealed behind Hollywood's plastic exterior.

Lieutenant-Colonel Philip Toosey (renamed Colonel Nickleson in the film) was a magnificent man, one of the best to serve under the British army. Nickleson, in the film, is portrayed as a mad man, obsessed with his mens mighty accomplishment. How anyone can 'bag' a man of such valor is beside me...

To Hollywood: If you want this film done right, hard and direct to the truth, let the English make it, after all, it was their war, not yours.

Unrelated facts: WWII is not America's war, mainly because they weren't there for the majority of it. Only when they were attacked did they provide assistance. Where were they in Africa, Eastern Europe or England itself when is was being torn down?
2006-06-11
So Historically Incorrect It's Distasteful
Bridge On the River Kwai is historically inaccurate to the point of absolute disgust. At no point did American, British and Austrailian prisioners of war work idly with their Japanese captors. Instead, they fought the building of the bridge and miles of railway by using termite infested woods and inferior iron - anything to prevent the line from working to transport Japanese soldiers throughout the region. Hundreds on Allied soldiers died along this rail line and this travesty of a movie only mocks their sacrifice.
2002-04-17
Historical Accuracy is Not Relevant Here
I write this review as a response to another review here at IMDb.com (the first review listed, as of 6/9/2017, titled "Good film, but a travesty of history," written by someone with the screen name "gcaplan").

The review by gcaplan states as follows: "I am normally an admirer of David Lean. But it is difficult to understand why he chose to base this film on a real event at the River Kwai, as it grossly misrepresents the real 'Colonel Nicholson' and caused considerable distress to both him and the River Kwai veterans. The Colonel Nicholson character is based on the allied camp commander, Lieutenant Colonel Philip Toosey, who was a remarkable officer by any standards."

I have the greatest respect for the sacrifices of the warriors of World War II. I also have the greatest respect for historical facts. I would urge upon reviewer "gcaplan" the following thought: making a great Hollywood film that will sell tickets to millions of people is not necessarily connected to historical accuracy. David Lean did NOT consider himself bound by historical fact as he made this film. He considered himself bound by the need to deliver a great and inspiring movie-going experience to movie-goers of the world. In my opinion, this is the ONLY criteria a filmmaker should adhere to, unless he/she is making a documentary film.

History, generally speaking, is too squishy, too-spread-out, too ambiguous, too complex, too lacking in the elements of drama to produce a good two- or three-hour film. Shakespeare knew this. David Lean knew this. If you're spending a fortune making a two- or three-hour production that intends to appeal to lots of people, and you're dealing with history, you've got to compress, change, simplify, enhance, move things around. Above all you've got to create drama and conflict. Otherwise you're just doing a vanity project. If you've got millions of dollars to spend on a vanity project, fine, do what you want, but if you want a return on your investment, as most filmmakers do, you'd better create a great story with dramatic conflict.

Lean's creation of the Col. Nicholson of "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (with a lot of help from Alec Guinness, needless to say) was a key step toward generating dramatic conflict in the script and thus creating a great film. Minus this depiction of Nicholson we have a lesser film - in fact, we probably have a nothing film that few people pay money to see.

I am skeptical of the assertion by gcaplan that the film has caused "considerable distress" to the brave and strong survivors of this prison hell. I would like to see substantive evidence for this assertion in the form of a specific citation. This assertion is the crux of gcaplan's review; I want evidence. I suggest the possibility that the film has caused "considerable distress' to SOME of the survivors of this hell, and has been loved by others, who recognize that, minus Lean's monumental effort to create dramatic tension, virtually no one would have ever heard of the movie, nor of them--and surely no one in the younger generation. As it is, everyone who loves great movies has heard of these men and regards them as great.

David Lean creates a wonderful conflict-driven story in "The Bridge on the River Kwai." It is a true depiction of what might happen to men at war. It is NOT true in terms of actual facts and makes no pretensions in that regard. I say to gcaplan, and the people who agree with him, come down here and live in the real world. Stop living in your rareified air of "Oh, dear me, the movie is so WRONG, it doesn't show the REAL facts." Down here in the real world, millions of people seek entertainment. They got it from this film. The film would have died on the vine had it failed to provide strong entertainment. It's possibly the best World War II film; it has nothing to do with the actual facts; and I say to David Lean, WTG. Well done, to have the guts and talent to take a less-than-cinematic story, tweak it, massage it, re-write it and make a great cinematic story.

Down here in the real world, millions of people, watching this film, came to a new level of appreciation for the sacrifice of prisoners in World War II. I am one of them. I salute the prisoners of World War II and every man and woman who fought for liberty in the war. I also salute David Lean, the finest filmmaker of our time, who created a movie that tens of millions of people have seen and loved.

The facts of the great bridge can be found by anyone who cares to do a bit of looking. I urge them to look. Meanwhile I recognize that, down here in the real world, few people have the historical curiosity to do so. Is there a single 17-year-old in the world today with the historical curiosity to dig out the facts of the great bridge? I rather doubt it. Maybe a few. Are there MANY 17-year-olds who have watched "The Bridge on the River Kwai" in a state of great excitement and fallen in love with its heroes and perhaps begun life-long reading about the war? I am inclined to say "yes."

The actual facts of the great bridge will not be found in this film. The drama of a great fictional story - a story of pain, sacrifice, and inspiring courage - can be found in this film.
2017-06-09
A must see with an interesting plot and character development.
The Bridge on the River Kwai is an excellent movie and definitely one of the best of it's time. Yes, it's another world war 2 story, however, it's completely different from all the rest and shows us some of the events that took place elsewhere during this time of war.

As many of you probably know, this movie is based on real life events. In many ways, I believe that the message being portrayed throughout the film shows us the "other" harsh realities of war, not just soldiers dying in battle, but soldiers fighting to survive under harsh conditions, the pride of a captain who stands by his code, the pride of a Japanese captain and overall how both parties realise that war is what it is and we have to make the best out of each situation to survive.

When I first decided to see this movie, I thought it was going to be very mediocre and plain. It was not. On several occasions they managed to keep the plot interesting and create new character developments from both the leading actors as well as the supporting actors that made the story enjoyable to watch. And on a final note, you can really tell that they tried to put a lot of detail and "special effects" into their shots which is impressive for the time.

Don't miss out on this one.
2015-03-23
Not as good as other can tell.
Even though a lot of people complain about the inaccuracy of the film's portrait of POW's conditions in Asia during WWII, this is not really what I dislike about this movie. Explaining the first part of my comment, I think that we all have to bear in mind that movie making is a form of art, and as so, does not have to be a letter-perfect rendition of reality. Some literary licenses are not only allowed but expected. That said, my real problem comes from the adaptation of the book. Even if the scriptwriter won an Academy Award, the ending in the book is a lot more emotional. Probably it clashes with Hollywood's idea of happy endings, probably it was changed to show the actual destruction of the bridge instead of Coronel Nicholson's discovery of the charges and his subsequent successful stopping of the sabotage. I would have loved to see the real ending on the silver screen (or rather on TV since I was born more than 10 years after the film's release), but the adaptation was not totally faithful.
2007-02-12
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