The Bridge On The River Kwai

The Bridge On The River Kwai


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

It's 1943 in the Burmese jungle. When a squad of British soldiers arrive at a Japanese PoW camp, they're forced into helping construct a railway bridge crucial to the enemy - until resolute British Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) intervenes. While a battle of wills between the two leaders ensues, American prisoner Major Shears (William Holden) escapes.

If you're going to watch The Bridge On The River Kwai, understand one thing: it's a long film. The first of David Lean's epics, there's oodles of spectacle and grand cinematography, but the running time feels like it goes on forever. Actually forever.

Copy picture

Now, it's an Oscar-grabbing war movie, so yesteryear's generation will tell you it's a classic. And maybe they're right. But yet, while boasting a top-notch cast, some interesting character dilemmas and the Colonel Bogey March whistle (the one often used for "Hitler, has only got one..."), Lean's bridge-building drama doesn't grip as much as its reputation promises.

That being said, Alec Guinness remains magnetic as the indefatigable and defiantly-stubborn Colonel Nicholson (nabbing a statue in the process), offering a classic battle of wills with Sessue Hayakawa's Japanese Colonel, which is where the movie really excels.

Where it doesn't excel though is the subplot which sees William Holden's all-American hero escape and then return to bomb the bridge (not in Pierre Boulle's novel), as it is clear the studio demanded a box office star and some adventure. It seems things haven't changed that much...

Reviewed on: 09 Feb 2011
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An exhausted group of prisoners of war are forced to build a bridge, yet keep their spirits high.
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Director: David Lean

Writer: Michael Wilson, Carl Foreman, Calder Willingham, Pierre Boulle

Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa

Year: 1957

Runtime: 161 minutes

Country: UK

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