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The Bridge on the River Kwai
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The Bridge on the River Kwai More at IMDbPro »

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Bit of trivia on Bridge over River Kwai

Author: MaryLeeFar from United States
28 November 2006

The "Siamese Woman" in the movie actually are members of the Karen Tribe. They are a national minority in Thailand that lives along the Mayanmar(Burma) border as well as in Mayanmar along the Thai border. Karen are a hill tribe that lives mainly along the northern Thai-Mayanmar border. The Karen were promised by the British that in exchange for their help, the British would help the Karen set up an independent state. Sadly, this never happened. Although the Thai/Mayanmar border is somewhat quiet now, every 10-15 years there are attempts by Karen to establish their independent state. This usually results in Karen refugees pouring into Thailand near a town in the north named Mae Sote. This town was also the location of the infamous border crossing in "Beyond Ragoon".

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Colonel Bogey's Barmy Army.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
31 July 2016

OK! Lets get it out there right away, for historical facts of the real Bridge on the River Kwai story, one should research elsewhere, this film is a fictionalised account of the said events. Sadly there are those out there who simply refuse to judge this purely as a piece of cinematic art - and cinematic art it is.

A squad of British soldiers are held in a Japanese POW camp in the Burmese jungle. The respective Japanese and British leaders clash but an understanding is finally reached to build a bridge across the River Kwai. The importance of which could prove crucial in more ways than one...

It won 7 Academy Awards and 4 BAFTAS, and it was the film that saw the great David Lean enter his epic period. And what a start it is. Kwai is a masterful piece of cinema, it has a magnificently intelligent and complex screenplay - with tough edged dialogue in the script, is bursting at the seams with high quality performances, and beautifully photographed (filmed in Ceylon). Thematically it's about the folly and psychological madness of war, which in turn is ensconced in sub - plots of genuine worth. It all builds to a tremendous finale, where everything we have witnessed is realised with a deftness of talent from across the board. 10/10

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Definitely great then, but slightly timeworn now

Author: Bene Cumb from Estonia/Tallinn
26 October 2013

This large-scale and realistic film was just a decade after the World War II had ended, without much technology assisting in creating credible atmosphere and effects. Even colour films were not so common... As the Brits had maintained more or less normal relations with their former colony Ceylon, they were able to film there, using lots of mass scenes and manual labour.

The idea behind is intriguing, and after a certain escape, the film consists of two parallel set of events intertwined in the end. However, many scenes are depicted too lengthily, bringing along temporary uneven pace and and diminishing excitement (or current viewers have just become too impatient...) As for the cast, only Alec Guinness as Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson and Sessue Hayakawa as Colonel Saito were catchy to me, I can't remember the others from other films, for example. Well, Guinness was awarded his only Oscar for the role (great, but lengthwise not a real leading one)... All in all, the film received 7 Academy Awards, showing that the opportunities of that period were used in a maximum way. I could particularly point out the directing and the music, with many songs becoming hits afterwards. A real pleasant supporting actor is the nature, forming a contrast to construction activities and prison camps (however, life of Japanese POWs was not as harsh as of German or Soviet ones).

Thus, The Bridge on the River Kwai is undoubtedly a great war film, but I am not sure it "accosts" modern viewers with Oliver Stone, Brian de Palma and Clint Eastwood in mind...

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

More Of A Psychological Study Than A War Movie

Author: sddavis63 ( from Durham Region, Ontario, Canada
18 June 2011

"The Bridge On The River Kwai" is not your typical war movies. There are no battle scenes and there's little carnage; hardly any of the action you're conditioned to expect from a "war" movie. Even for a movie set in a prison camp there are no mass escape attempts (the one escape attempt I believe consisted of three prisoners.) This is instead more of a psychological study of the effects of captivity on soldiers - maybe even an early hint of what's come to be known as "the Stockholm Syndrome" - as prisoners begin to identify with and in some ways sympathize with their captives.

The movie is set in a Japanese prison camp where the prisoners are ordered to work on building a massive railway bridge over the River Kwai. Alec Guinness put on a strong performance as Col. Nicholson - the senior British officer among the prisoners who fights for the respect of the camp commander Col. Saito (Sessue Hayakawa in another strong performance). The movie for a while offered a pretty good depiction of the harshness of Japanese prison camps, and was interesting in portraying Nicholson as ultimately besting Saito as he first gains the right (guaranteed by the Geneva Convention) for the officers not to be used as manual labourers and then gets the British officers in charge of building the bridge, thus ensuring that his men would be essentially under British command. That was well portrayed, as was the fact that somewhere along the way the lines of loyalty got tested. Nicholson devotes himself to building the bridge, making an even better bridge for the Japanese than the Japanese themselves were going to build - all in the name of keeping up the morale of the British troops and building a monument to the abilities of the British army. But - as was questioned in the movie - at what point does the legitimate duty of POWs (the Geneva Convention allows for enlisted prisoners to be used by their captors for manual labour) become treasonous? The bridge and railway will be used to transport Japanese troops. Did Nicholson have to ensure that it would be so well built? And Saito suffers some of the same psychological challenges, depicted as being in torment after realizing that, while he's going to get his bridge built, he had to do it by giving up control to those who were supposed to be his prisoners. It all builds up to a powerful last scene as Allied commandos try to blow up the bridge and Nicholson tries to save it before realizing what he's doing.

The psychological study is interesting and the acting is good. I thought the movie itself was a bit too long at almost three hours. William Holden's role as an American officer who escapes from the camp and then becomes part of the commando team seeking to destroy the bridge was well played but struck me as rather unnecessary - at least I wasn't sure of the need for him to have been in the camp with Nicholson and then to have him return to blow up the bridge. Some of that seemed to me to add unnecessary filler to the movie, especially the scenes in which Shears is recruited to go back to the jungle as part of the commando team.

It's a good movie and interesting enough - just a little too much extraneous material and therefore a little bit too long. (6/10)

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Madness! Madness!

Author: lastliberal from United States
2 March 2008

What could one possibly add to the accolades this film has had heaped upon it. The fact that it may not be historically accurate is of no consequence, as it was made for the theater, not the History Channel. David Lean's master piece showing the madness of war stands the test of time.

It swept the Oscars in 1958, winning Best Picture, Best Director for Lean, Best Actor for Alec Guinness in the role that defines him, and a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Sessue Hayakawa. It also took the awards for Writing. Music, Editing and Cinematography.

Guinness was a perfect example of British pride. If you are going to do a job, then do it right. In that, he managed to take care of his men at the same time.

William Holden was a perfect example of a soldier who just wanted to go home, as I am sure was the feeling of most. He recognized the madness of war long before the good doctor.

This is a film that you can watch year after year and never get tired of it.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

"Do not speak to me of rules. This is war! This is not a game of cricket!"

Author: ackstasis from Australia
24 September 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Nobody could craft an epic film better than David Lean, as I learned earlier this year when I watched the magnificent 'Lawrence of Arabia' for the first time. Though he had achieved earlier success with such films as 'Brief Encounter (1945)' and 'Great Expectations (1946),' 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' was the first of Lean's multi-million dollar wide-screen spectaculars, for which he is now most fondly remembered. Shot on location in the jungles of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), the film concerns the building of a railway bridge by Allied prisoners-of-war during World War Two. As it becomes less and less likely that the bridge will be constructed before the deadline, conflict escalates between the proud British leader, Col. Nicholson (Alec Guinness) and hot-tempered Col. Saito (Sessue Hayakawa). The film proved very successful at the 1958 Oscars, taking home seven awards (including Best Picture) from eight nominations.

Whilst William Holden's cynical, hard-edged American was likely considered the main star attraction, the film's most memorable character – and, indeed, one of the greatest in cinema history – is Alec Guiness' Col. Nicholson. The embodiment of British courage and dedication, Nicholson finds himself in a battle of wills with the ruthless Col. Saito, who, despite representing the enemy, nonetheless exhibits many of the same qualities: egotistical pride, obstinacy and unwillingness to compromise. For Col. Nicholson, the construction of the railway bridge becomes something of an obsession, its completion symbolic of "Western methods and efficiency that will put {the Japanese} to shame" and the culmination of his 28 years in the military. When he uncovers the plot to destroy the bridge, Nicholson betrays his fellow countrymen to the Japanese, his narcissistic pride in the landmark prompting him to neglect his sworn duty to Britain.

I'd like to take some time to consider the film's climax, undoubtedly one of the most awe-inspiring cinema spectacles of all time. I had initially anticipated that, after the intricate task of planting the explosives overnight, the detonation of the bridge would be a rather straightforward task. However, David Lean weaves so much action and suspense into the finale that the closing credits left me reeling. As the distant rumble of a train announces its impending arrival, Col. Nicholson notices that the reduction in river-level has exposed the wires connecting the explosives to the detonator. Not yet comprehending the situation, he summons Col. Saito and they both descend to the riverside to investigate. Once his fears are confirmed, Nicholson – to his subsequent dismay – attempts to thwart his army's attempt to destroy the enemy bridge, and both Lt. Joyce (Geoffrey Horne) and Cmdr. Shears (William Holden) are fatally shot.

Interestingly, there have been suggestions that Maj. Warden (Jack Hawkins) fired the lethal shots at his own comrades, abandoning the mission objective in an attempt to prevent their live capture by the merciless Japanese. Whilst this isn't explicitly shown in the film itself, it reportedly corresponds with Pierre Boulle's original novel (in which, notably, the bridge is not destroyed) and would certainly explain why, afterwards, Warden tries to rationalise his actions: "I had to do it. I had to do it. They might have been captured alive. It was the only thing to do." Alternatively, Warden didn't shoot them, but is attempting to justify his use of the mortars, which basically obliterated any slim remaining chances on their survival. Meanwhile, Nicholson, struck by shrapnel from a mortar attack, crumbles hopelessly onto the detonator (either intentionally or inadvertently) just as the train begins to cross the river. The actual collapse of the $250,000 bridge, a shot which owes a lot to Buster Keaton and 'The General (1927)', is an amazing spectacle, and Maj. Clipton (James Donald) sums up the entire climax - and war in general - with his horrified exclamation of "Madness! Madness!"

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Perhaps the greatest movie on the folly of war

Author: nnnn45089191 from Norway
5 August 2007

Certainly one of my favorite films "The Bridge on the River Kwai" deserves all the praises and awards which have been bestowed on this masterpiece.This epic contains fantastic visuals captured by ace cameraman Jack Hildyard on location in Burma. The acting of Alec Guinness is as good as it gets.William Holden simply mesmerizing, and when you have actors like Sessue Hayakawa, Jack Hawkins and James Donald at their top of the game you really can't ask for more.The script is intelligent and full of irony,especially in the intense finale,and still packs an emotional wallop.I've probably seen this movie several dozen times and it never fails to entertain even though I know almost every scene by heart.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A great span of a film. rather like the bridge in question, no less

Author: Framescourer from London, UK
5 January 2005

I really feel out of my depth talking about a film with such gargantuan architectural scope as this - no doubt made at a time when budgetary constraints weren't what they are. Impressively the film runs for almost 3 hours, but never seems to really be that long.

It's talent to engross is down to Lean's straightforward storytelling that nonetheless bristles at the edges with tangential narratives. He allows the characters to develop enough to drive the film without being sidetracked. On his side in this respect is the strong contribution of Guiness (although I think his performance is more ambiguous than Lean really needed it to be) and the contrasting but equally committed characters of Holden and Hawkins. I wasn't knocked out by Malcolm Arnold's score, but I sweated in sympathy with the climate, caught without recourse to extraneous symbols to press the issue. The perfect post-prandial picture for a Bank Holiday weekend 6.5/10

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A Stretch Too Far

Author: robinmcis966 from United States
4 September 2012

Certainly 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' has a gorgeous and epic sweep. If viewers simply want an entertaining evening, just cue it up and enjoy. For that matter, if you want encouragement, The AFI 100 once placed 'The Bridge' as the 13th best film ever and it has garnered more 4 of 4 and 5 of 5 star reviews than can be counted.

However, The AFI now places the Film 37th and perhaps it is past due for re-vision. Although larger problems develop more slowly, it is a bad sign when there are not one, but two, obvious editing problems before the end of the credits! We are right behind the mounted machine gun on a train. The view is of the at least 2 carloads of wood for fuel and the engine. But now we see the same view with no fuel cars, OR EVEN THE ENGINE. Where did they go?

In the same scene, the train now stops as the rail ends amidst about 15 workers. But now the dramatic score kicks in and there suddenly are several dozen workers on the rail line. In a low-budget film, this could be overlooked. But this is a major production that won an Oscar....for best direction AND editing!

Moving on to the more serious issues, we are told that the British Commander (Alec Guinness) has been ordered to surrender, along with over 100 men and about a dozen officers. No explanation is offered for this. Really? He was just 'ordered to surrender'? According to historical estimates, over 100,000 men died building this railroad. For that matter, although there are ample references to men dying in this prison camp, all the men who have already been imprisoned there, even those in the infirmary, look well-fed, some even in 'beef-cake' condition. Again, this sort of over-sight would be fine for a 2nd rate 'action-genre' flick. It's Bill Holden-he's tanned, buff, and sweaty. Enough said?

The central problem with 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' has at least been occasionally mentioned. Guinness' Commander not only helps the Japanese build a crucial bridge in their supply line, he goes to great lengths to make sure the bridge will hold and be finished on time. This to prove superior British logistics and character. Along the way, he is warned of the possibly treasonous nature of his collaboration, and yet he continues on without a doubt. Nothing is made of this...he just comes across as 'funny that way'.

However, as far as I know, it has not been pointed out that all of his men and his officers would therefore have had to join him in this inexplicable lapse. This despite what appears to be a very democratic officers meeting and over two months time to reflect on the matter. Treason? problem! What a credulous bunch of guys. And more to the point, what a credulous bunch of reviewers have failed to notice this.

Clearly the original 1957 release of 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' struck a cord. To portray an American, (British in the book), played by William Holden, as cynically detached from the war effort and yet ultimately humane was not new. Several Bogart films prepared audiences for this. But to sum it all up as 'Madness', this before Catch-22 and Mash, was ahead of it's time. This progressive spirit, some great cinematography, and a rousing combination of star-power and studio support make for an entertaining evening. But as a 'Closely Watched Film', it is almost as much train-wreck as classic.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Some problems with the dealings of race

Author: James J Cremin ( from Los Angeles, CA
3 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'll start off by saying that I'm an Irish-English-German-French descendant American. That David Lean was an excellent director shows very well here.

Sessue Hayakawa actually had my sympathy. He could have just let Guiness die in the hole and forced labor under the threat of death. Instead, he liberates him and the English man is victorious and the Japaneses cries by himself. By the way, I didn't see much Japanese or even much Asians in an area that's supposed to be Asis. Hayakawa even gets stabbed by death to show a young English recruit to prove courage.

Guiness played the stiff upper lip Englishman who pridefully supervises the buildin of the bridge for the Japanese. It turns out to be his downfall as Willian Holden and Jack Hawkins come to destroy it.

Holden is definitely the most likable of the group but then I did start by saying I'm an American. Odd scene where the white guys get muddied up by the yellow girls as if the whites were gods.

But the dialogue is thoughtful and brings up interesting issues. Made prior to James Bond, the training camps of the British must have been influential for those films.

The palaces where the English plan their strategies are something to behold. In fact, all locations used for this film are quite outstanding.

And it nary a boring moment in the film. It moves fairly quickly and the showdown one of best I've seen in war films.

Willian Holden managed to star in many important films of the 1950's and this is definitely one of his best.

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