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The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Poster

Quotes

Colonel Saito: Do you know what will happen to me if the bridge is not built on time?

Colonel Nicholson: I haven't the foggiest.

Colonel Saito: I'll have to kill myself. What would you do if you were me?

Colonel Nicholson: I suppose if I were you... I'd have to kill myself.

Colonel Nicholson: [raising the glass of scotch he previously declined] Cheers!

Colonel Nicholson: What have I done?

[last lines]

Major Clipton: Madness! Madness!

Major Shears: You'll go on without me. That's an order. You're in command now, Shears.

Major Shears: You make me sick with your heroics! There's a stench of death about you. You carry it in your pack like the plague. Explosives and L-pills - they go well together, don't they? And with you it's just one thing or the other: destroy a bridge or destroy yourself. This is just a game, this war! You and Colonel Nicholson, you're two of a kind, crazy with courage. For what? How to die like a gentleman, how to die by the rules - when the only important thing is how to live like a human being!... I'm not going to leave you here to die, Warden, because I don't care about your bridge and I don't care about your rules. If we go on, we go on together.

Commander Shears: [to Nurse] You give me powders, pills, baths, injections, enemas; when all I need is love.

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Colonel Nicholson: [looks at the completed bridge] I've been thinking. Tomorrow it will be 28 years to the day that I've been in the service. 28 years in peace and war. I don't suppose I've been at home more than 10 months in all that time. Still, it's been a good life. I loved India. I wouldn't have had it any other way. But there are times when suddenly you realize you're nearer the end than the beginning. And you wonder, you ask yourself, what the sum total of your life represents. What difference your being there at any time made to anything. Hardly made any difference at all, really, particularly in comparison with other men's careers. I don't know whether that kind of thinking's very healthy, but I must admit I've had some thoughts on those lines from time to time. But tonight... tonight!

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Colonel Saito: I hate the British! You are defeated but you have no shame. You are stubborn but you have no pride. You endure but you have no courage.

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Commander Shears: I can think of a lot of things to call Saito, but "reasonable"... that's a new one.

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Colonel Saito: Let me remind you of General Yamashita's motto: be happy in your work.

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Colonel Nicholson: [recognizes Shears] You?

Major Shears: [lunges at Nicholson] You!

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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. Must we work so well? Must we build them a better bridge than they could have built for themselves?

Colonel Nicholson: If you had to operate on Saito, would you do your job or would you let him die?... Would you have it be said that our chaps can't do a better job? You're a fine doctor, Clipton, but you've a lot to learn about the army.

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Maj. Warden: I belong to a rather rum group called Force 316. Our headquarters is up in the botanical gardens.

Commander Shears: Protecting rare plants from the enemy?

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Colonel Nicholson: One day the war will be over. And I hope that the people that use this bridge in years to come will remember how it was built and who built it. Not a gang of slaves, but soldiers, British soldiers, Clipton, even in captivity.

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Maj. Warden: [to Col. Green] Sir, it's most annoying. They say, in view of the time element, they don't think a few practice jumps would be worthwhile.

Major Shears: No?

Maj. Warden: No, they say if you make one jump, you've only got 50% chance of injury, two jumps, 80%, and three jumps, you're bound to catch a packet. The consensus of opinion is that the most sensible thing for Major Shears to do is to go ahead and jump, and hope for the best.

Major Shears: With or without a parachute?

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Colonel Saito: Do not speak to me of rules. This is war! This is not a game of cricket!

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Major Hughes: Jennings has a plan, sir. He seems to think...

Colonel Nicholson: Yes, I'm sure Jennings has a plan. But escape? Where, into this jungle? That fellow Saito was right: no need for barbed wire or fence, one chance in a hundred of survival. I'm sure a man of Commander Shears' experience will attest to that.

Commander Shears: I'd say the odds against a successful escape are about 100 to one. But may I add another word, Colonel? The odds against survival in this camp are even worse.

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Colonel Nicholson: It is quite understandable; it's a very natural reaction. But one day - in a week, a month, a year - on that day when, God willing, we all return to our homes again, you're going to feel very proud of what you have achieved here in the face of great adversity. What you have done should be, and I think will be, an example to all our countrymen, soldier and civilian alike. You have survived with honor - that, and more - here in the wilderness. You have turned defeat into victory. I congratulate you. Well done.

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Colonel Saito: All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

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Colonel Saito: A word to you about escape. There is no barbed wire. No stockade. No watchtower. They are not necessary. We are an island in the jungle. Escape is impossible. You would die.

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Commander Shears: You mean, you intend to uphold the letter of the law, no matter what it costs?

Colonel Nicholson: Without law, Commander, there is no civilization.

Commander Shears: That's just my point; here, there is no civilization.

Colonel Nicholson: Then we have the opportunity to introduce it.

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Major Reeves: By the way, sir, I meant to tell you, there are trees in this forest very similar to elm. And the elm piles of London Bridge lasted six hundred years.

Colonel Nicholson: Six hundred years, Reeves?

Major Reeves: Yes, sir.

Colonel Nicholson: Six hundred years... That would be quite something.

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Major Clipton: [visits Nicholson in the oven] Sir, you can't stand much more of this. And wouldn't the men be better off working rather than being kept in those cells? The men are doing a wonderful job of it, they're going as slow as they dare; but Saito's cut their food rations. If they don't get put to work, they're going to die. And that's all there is to it.

Colonel Nicholson: Yes, Clipton. I understand, truly. But don't you see it's a matter of principle? If we give in now, there will be no end to it. No!

Major Clipton: Sir, we're lost in the jungle, a thousand miles from anywhere. We're under the heel of a man who will stop at nothing to get his way. Principle? No one will know or care what happens to us! Give in, sir! Please!

Colonel Nicholson: I'm adamant. I will not have an officer from my battalion working as a coolie.

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Colonel Nicholson: I realize how difficult it's going to be in this god-forsaken place where you can't find what you need, but there's the challenge.

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Colonel Nicholson: We can teach these barbarians a lesson in Western methods and efficiency that will put them to shame. We'll show them what the British soldier is capable of doing.

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Maj. Warden: [lowering binoculars] Kill him... Kill him!

Major Shears: [screaming] KILL HIM! KILL HIM!

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Nurse at Ceylon hospital: [both characters are on the beach, discussing the evening's plans] I know, you're terribly sorry, but you're standing me up tonight.

Major Shears: You couldn't be more wrong!

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[after speaking with Nicholson and Saito, neither of whom will relent]

Major Clipton: Are they both mad? Or am I going mad? Or is it the sun?

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Colonel Saito: Attention, English prisoners! Notice I do not say "English soldiers". From the moment you surrendered, you ceased to be soldiers. You will finish the bridge by the twelfth day of May. You will work under the direction of a Japanese engineer, Lieutenant Mioura. Time is short. All men will work. Your officers will work beside you. This is only just. For it is they who betray you by surrender. Your shame is their dishonor. It is they who told you: "Better to live like a coolie than die like a hero." It is they who brought you here, not I. Therefore, they will join you in useful labor. That is all.

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Colonel Nicholson: It only remains for me to say, thank you, Colonel Saito, for your kind attention, and are there any other questions?

Colonel Saito: One question... can you finish the bridge in time?

Colonel Nicholson: Frankly, the consensus of opinion is that it's impossible... but we'll certainly give it a go. After all, we mustn't forget that we've wasted over a month through an unfortunate disagreement for which I was not to blame.

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Colonel Green: You were an accountant in Montreal?

Lieutenant Joyce: Yes, sir. Uh, not really an accountant, sir. That is, I didn't have my charter.

Colonel Green: Exactly what did you do?

Lieutenant Joyce: 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.

Colonel Green: Sounds a frightful bore.

Lieutenant Joyce: Sir, it was a frightful bore.

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Nurse at Ceylon hospital: What makes you so sure you'll get a medical discharge?

Commander Shears: Because I'm a civilian at heart, lover, and I always follow my heart.

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Colonel Nicholson: I tell you, gentlemen, we have a problem on our hands.

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Colonel Green: Good show! Jolly good show, Major!

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Colonel Green: As I've told you before, in a job like yours, even when it's finished, there's always one more thing to do.

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Colonel Nicholson: Queer bird... even for an American.

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Commander Shears: [referring to Col. Saito, who had a machine gun brought up to threaten Col. Nicholson and his officers] He's going to do it, believe me, he's really going to do it!

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Commander Shears: I'm getting worse, you know. Sometimes I think I'm Admiral Halsey.

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Colonel Nicholson: Now, there's another important decision that can't be postponed. As most of the British soldiers will be working on the bridge, only a small number will be available for railway work. So, I must ask you, Colonel Saito, to lend us some of your own men to reinforce the railway gang, so that the final stretch of track can be completed as quickly as possible.

Colonel Saito: I have already given the order.

Colonel Nicholson: We must fix the daily work quota for your men. At first I thought of setting it at a yard and a half, so as not to overtire them, but don't you think it would be best if we make it the same as the British soldiers? That would also create a healthy competitive spirit.

Colonel Saito: I have already given the order.

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Lieutenant Joyce: I'm sorry, Sir. I thought you were the enemy.

Commander Shears: Well, I'm an American, if that's what you mean.

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Colonel Saito: I am Colonel Saito. In the name of His Imperial Majesty, I welcome you. I am the commanding officer of this camp, which is Camp 16 along the great railroad which will soon connect Bangkok with Rangoon. You British prisoners have been chosen to build a bridge across the River Kwai. It will be pleasant work, requiring skill, and officers will work as well as men. The Japanese Army cannot have idle mouths to feed. If you work hard, you will be treated well, but if you do not work hard, you will be punished!

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Commander Shears: [He and a fellow Allied P.O.W., Weaver, have just buried a dead P.O.W. in the camp cemetery. They are putting in a handmade wooden cross to mark his grave] Here lies... You know, Weaver, I've forgotten who we just buried.

Weaver, Allied P.O.W.: Thompson.

Commander Shears: Oh, yes... Here lies Corporal Herbert Thompson. Serial number zero-one-two-three-four-five-six-seven. Valiant member of the King's Own... or the Queen's Own... or something. Who died of beriberi in the year of our Lord, 1943. For the greater glory of...

Commander Shears: [pauses, looking stumped. Looks at Weaver] What *did* he die for?

Weaver, Allied P.O.W.: Ah, come off it! No need to mock the grave!

Commander Shears: I don't mock the grave or the men... May he rest in peace.

Commander Shears: [bangs the makeshift wooden cross down with his shovel] He found little enough of it when he was alive.

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Colonel Saito: [Addressing the prisoners, who are standing in formation] English prisoners... let us ask the question... "Why does the bridge not progress?" You know why. Because your officers are lazy! They think themselves too good to share your burdens! This is not just. Therefore, you are not happy in your work. Therefore, the bridge does not progress. But there is another cause. I do not hide the truth. With deep shame and regret, I admit to you the failure of a member of the Japanese staff. I refer to Lieutenant Mioura.

Colonel Saito: [points to Lt. Mioura, who looks down with shame] He is a bad engineer! He is unworthy of command!

Colonel Saito: Therefore, I have removed him from his post. Tomorrow we begin again. I shall be in personal command. Today we rest. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. As token of regard for your efforts in the future... I give presents to you all!

Colonel Saito: [the back gate of a nearby truck is dropped down, revealing stacks of packages, Red Cross parcels, etc] Let us be happy in our work. Company, dismissed.

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Colonel Nicholson: Reeves, if this were your bridge, how would you get it underway?

Major Reeves: Get it underway, sir? Well, first of all, I wouldn't build it here.

Colonel Nicholson: Oh? Why not?

Major Reeves: As I was trying to tell you a while ago, sir, the Japanese couldn't have picked a worse location. There's no bottom. You see those piles? They're sinking. Our chaps could drive those piles 'til doomsday and they wouldn't hold.

Colonel Nicholson: *Where* would you build it?

Major Reeves: [pointing] Why, further downstream, sir. Across those narrows. Then we'd have solid bedrock on both banks.

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Colonel Nicholson: Hughes, if this were your bridge, how would you use the men?

Major Hughes: [chuckles] Well, sir, not the way they're doing it. It's utter chaos, as you can see at a glance. It's a lot of uncoordinated activity; no teamwork. Some of those parties are actually working against each other.

Colonel Nicholson: Yes... I tell you, gentlemen, we have a problem on our hands. Thanks to the Japanese, we now command a rabble. There's no order, no discipline. Our task is to rebuild the battalion.

Major Reeves: Yes, sir.

Colonel Nicholson: It isn't going to be easy, but fortunately we have the means at hand: The bridge.

Major Hughes: "The bridge," sir?

Colonel Nicholson: The bridge. We can teach these barbarians a lesson in Western methods and efficiency that will put them to shame. We'll show them what the British soldier is capable of doing.

Major Hughes: Yes, I see your point, sir.

Colonel Nicholson: I realize how difficult it's going to be in this god-forsaken place where you can't find what you need, but there's the challenge.

Major Evans: I beg your pardon, sir. You mean you really want them to build a bridge?

Colonel Nicholson: You're not usually so slow on the uptake, Evans. I know our men. You've got to keep them occupied. The fact is, if there weren't any work for them to do, we'd invent some, eh, Reeves?

Major Reeves: That we would, sir.

Colonel Nicholson: So we're lucky. But it's going to be a proper bridge. Now here again, I know the men. It's essential that they should take a pride in their job. Right, gentlemen?

Major Hughes: [All officers in unison] Yes, sir.

Colonel Nicholson: Reeves, you're the key man in this situation, as engineer. Tell me what you want, and Hughes and I will organize it. What do you think? Can we make a go of it?

Major Reeves: We'll do our best, sir.

Colonel Nicholson: Fine. We must draw up our plans... then arrange a conference with Saito... and set him straight.

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