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The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

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After settling his differences with a Japanese P.O.W. 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.

Director:

David Lean

Writers:

Pierre Boulle (novel), Carl Foreman (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
3,177 ( 272)
Top Rated Movies #140 | Won 7 Oscars. Another 23 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
William Holden ... Shears
Alec Guinness ... Colonel Nicholson
Jack Hawkins ... Major Warden
Sessue Hayakawa ... Colonel Saito
James Donald ... Major Clipton
Geoffrey Horne ... Lieutenant Joyce
André Morell ... Colonel Green (as Andre Morell)
Peter Williams Peter Williams ... Captain Reeves
John Boxer John Boxer ... Major Hughes
Percy Herbert ... Grogan
Harold Goodwin ... Baker
Ann Sears ... Nurse
Heihachirô Ôkawa Heihachirô Ôkawa ... Captain Kanematsu (as Heihachirô 'Henry' Ôkawa)
Keiichirô Katsumoto Keiichirô Katsumoto ... Lieutenant Miura (as Keiichiro Katsumoto) (as K. Katsumoto)
M.R.B. Chakrabandhu M.R.B. Chakrabandhu ... Yai
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Storyline

This movie 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 man. 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 alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

It spans a whole new world of entertainment!

Genres:

Adventure | Drama | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for mild war violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English | Japanese | Thai

Release Date:

14 December 1957 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El puente sobre el río Kwai See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$44,908,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Horizon Pictures (II) See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (1973 re-isssue 70 mm prints) (RCA Sound Recording)| Mono (35 mm prints) (RCA Sound Recording)| 4-Track Stereo (Linear PCM)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Producer Sam Spiegel, in his efforts for securing rights, casting, locations, et cetera, flew around the world four times in the three years it took to get this movie from page to screen. See more »

Goofs

When Shears leaves the village he is sent off in a boat with a driver. The next few scenes show him running out of supplies. But there is no driver, Shears is by himself. See more »

Quotes

[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?
See more »

Crazy Credits

And introducing Geoffrey Horne See more »

Alternate Versions

Various versions have different main credits. There is the original that gives screenplay credit to Pierre Boulle, there is the restored version in which previously blacklisted Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson are credited and there is the original version that was distributed to cinemas at the time still lacking in CinemaScope equipment in which the Cinema Scope credit is omitted and the credits formatted to fit the smaller frame. See more »

Connections

Featured in Pucker Up (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

God Save the King
(1744) (uncredited)
Written by Henry Carey
Performed by the British Prisoners of War
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A true classic, despite one disturbing aspect
19 January 2001 | by Local HeroSee all my reviews

In my opinion, David Lean is one of the cinema's greatest directors, in the highest pantheon along with the likes of Kurosawa, Welles, De Sica, and Bergman. Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and his vastly underrated "A Passage to India" are unmitigated masterpieces, and some of his 'smaller' films, such as "Summertime," "Great Expectations," and "Brief Encounter" are true gems.

"The Bridge on the River Kwai" should justly be grouped with "Lawrence" and "India," as all three are sweeping in scope, and all three are some of the most thematically ambitious films ever made, reflecting a mature filmmaker at the peak of his craft. Like "Lawrence," "Kwai" does not flinch for a moment while it forces the viewer to gaze deep into the chasm of the human condition, and it is not an easy film to take in, as it presents us with profoundly symbolic (archetypal, you might say) character types, most of whom elicit both admiration and repulsion, sympathy and frustration. And while the film explores these character themes at length, it is ultimately content to leave the conflicts unresolved, happy simply to present us with the Hamlet-like paradoxes that are the human condition in all its glory and stupidity.

If there is any clear, unequivocal message that can be gleaned from "Kwai," it is an ode in praise of stoic virtue and the struggle for dignity and meaning in the face of a hostile universe-- in this case, in the face of an inhuman and absurd war. However, ironically, it is in this very aspect that the film, in my opinion, has its greatest failing. In retrospect, it would seem that in order to distill the film's philosophical elements down to universal themes, and perhaps in order to make the story palatable to 1950s audiences (and more Oscar-worthy?), the film greatly tones down the very inhumanity of the historical situation it portrays. In reality, the Japanese were perfectly capable of engineering their own bridges and, far more importantly, the building of the Burma-Thailand Railroad was an atrocity so vast and inhuman that it can only be rightly compared with the Nazi Holocaust and the Khmer Rouge Genocide. The true "stiff upper lip" displayed by the surviving prisoners-of-war from that hell in the jungle was not an insistence that a bridge be built right if it is to be built at all, etc.; the true "stiff upper lip" was mere survival itself, as thousands upon thousands were dying of starvation, overwork, constant beatings, summary executions, disease and exposure. While it is true that not every film about war needs to be "Shoah," "Schindler's List," or "The Killing Fields," and "Kwai" should be viewed on its own terms, as a film solely about the themes and characters it has chosen to depict; nevertheless, by so greatly downplaying the horrors of the actual historical situation it portrays, the film ultimately does a great disservice to the hundreds of thousands of people of several nationalities who suffered and died in the building of this monstrosity of a railroad. While it seems to me that the intentions of the filmmakers were noble, that Lean sought to explore the struggle of the human spirit under the greatest adversity, the film's light treatment of the still-seldom-discussed topic of Japanese war crimes inadvertently trivializes that very struggle.

Nonetheless, I still feel that "Kwai" is an amazing cinematic achievement in its own right. And while it would only be with heavy reservation that I place it on a list of "greatest films," it does manage to squeak onto my hypothetical Top 100.


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