After settling his differences with a Japanese PoW 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.
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. Written by
When William Holden first arrived on the set, he was greeted with crew complaints regarding David Lean's attitude. Holden immediately responded like a sports coach corralling his team and gave a rousing speech about how they all knew the quality of the script and director. See more »
As Major Shears and the others are parachuting, the POV is the audience looking up at them coming down. There are some white clouds, and a lot of clear sky. Cut to their guide waiting on the ground, watching the men for a few seconds. Cut back to the audience POV looking up, and the sky is now all dark clouds. See more »
You were an accountant in Montreal?
Yes, sir. Uh, not really an accountant, sir. That is, I didn't have my charter.
Exactly what did you do?
Well, sir, I just checked columns and columns of figures which three or four people had checked before me, and then there were other people who checked them after I had checked them.
Sounds a frightful bore.
Sir, it was a frightful bore.
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I recently saw The Bridge on the River Kwai at the Cinerama Dome, and it was quite spectacular. Unlike some of today's grand adventure films, you get to know the characters along with seeing great scenes of acting and cinematography. Alec Guinness is at the top of his form as the single minded Colonel Nicholson. The scene between Nicholson and Saito in Saito's hut is remarkable. Nicholson still will not concede defeat, he even takes offense that other officers of different armies gave in and worked alongside the enlisted men. Saito can't understand Nicholson's acceptance of his punishment, and it drives him crazy. The film's plot has two stories that are beautifully intertwined. Shears' return to the bridge is his only way to escape the bridge. In the film's final act, the tension is turned up as the British commandos try to blow up the bridge, and a train, and only then does Nicholson realise what the bridge really is. The Bridge on the River Kwai is one film that is hard to top, the only film able to do that is Lawrence of Arabia, both directed by the meticulous eye of David Lean. One director who could put intimacy in epic circumstances.
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