A group of war prisoners has spilt blood, sweat and tears to construct a bridge over the river Kwai in Thailand. Just when the bridge is ready, an American bomber arrives and destroys it. Camp commander Tanaka wants to set an example and orders that some of the prisoners must be executed. Just in time major Harada arrives with orders that the healthiest prisoners must be transported to Japan by train and boat. A treacherous journey since the allied forces keep a close eye on railroads and practically own the seas. The prisoners are thinking of plans to escape. Meanwhile the American bomber has been shot down and it's pilot, Leyland Crawford, is being rescued by the indigenous people, the Meo. The Meo have formed a resistance group against the Japanese, led by the British colonel Grayson. Written by
Arnoud Tiele (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I just recently had the tawdry task of sitting through the Japanese version of this film, with all the English dialog subtitled in Japanese and all the Japanese dialog (and there is a lot of it) not subtitled, so admittedly I couldn't tell 100% exactly what was going on the whole time.
The film begins well, reminding me of an episode of "Black Sheep Squadron" with George Takei kicking around a band of misfit G.I.'s in Burma while they're constantly under attack by Allied planes. There's some good action sequences at this point, a staple of any of Andrew V. McLaglen's war films, but around the halfway mark the action dies down and it turns into a pretty dull movie about prisoners being escorted back to Japan. The climactic mutiny aboard the Japanese freighter and battle between a gunboat and an American submarine is just plain silly.
Chris Penn is totally useless this time around, and the subplot involving him and Denholm Elliott sneaking around behind enemy lines does nothing but distract us from the real story of all the prisoners. Edward Fox and Timothy Bottoms both come across as somewhat underused, but most of the Japanese cast, especially Tatsuya Nakadai (a Kurosawa regular), come off pretty well.
Overall this film comes across little more than an average TV war movie with minor action sequences, some better-than-average photography and special effects, but with a dull and meandering padded storyline. It's pretty dull, but the movie is decent enough to at least warrant some US distribution at some point in time.
Though RETURN FROM THE RIVER KWAI is not exactly terrible, this is a fairly unmemorable dud, and totally useless as a sequel to an undeniably great film.
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