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.
Wyoming, early 1900s. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid are the leaders of a band of outlaws. After a train robbery goes wrong they find themselves on the run with a posse hard on their heals. Their solution - escape to Bolivia.
George Roy Hill
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
Initially Alec Guinness had doubts about playing the role of Col. Nicholson. Guinness had become a much-loved figure on screen, appearing in a series of popular comedies. The Nicholson character seemed humorless, unlovable and perhaps even dull. To remedy this, Guinness tried to inject some humor into his portrayal of the Colonel. David Lean was very much opposed to this idea, insisting that it be played straight. Thus began an argument between the two men that continued through shooting. See more »
Many Japanese POW camp commandants equipped their guards with British equipment because of an abundance of British ordnance after the fall of Singapore in 1942 and the difficulties in equipping main line troops with new equipment so far from Japan, much less camp guards who would not be near the fighting and would not require constant resupply. The warring nations equipped prison camp guards with second hand equipment. As such, it is not a goof that the Japanese soldiers do not have Japanese weapons. See more »
Hughes, if this were your bridge, how would you use the men?
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.
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.
It isn't going to be easy, but ...
[...] See more »
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 »
Of all war movies this is the one with the best idea behind it. Think how easy it is to make a bad war movie. A group of people must blow up a bridge, and this is the story of their quest ... Actually, that DID serve as the premise for a film: it was called `Force Ten from Navarone', and it was dire. Or how about this one: we see close up the brutalities of war. (Then we see them again. Then we see some more of the brutalities of war. Then we see the credits.) Or how about this: a humble American soldier, with the pragmatism native to his breed, rejects his superiors' highfalutin talk of honour and glory and asserts his basic humanity in trying to stay alive. Or this one: we see English prisoners of war maintain their dignity in the face of Japanese brutality.
They're all present, in a sort of a way: but ALSO present is a magnificent, long, suspenseful, tight story, around which these apparent clichés wrap naturally. If the clichés don't wrap naturally then they, not the story, are bent out of shape. Just when we think that the American pragmatist will turn out to be the hero, we see him cut a rather shabby figure, and it seems that there really WAS something to that highfalutin talk of honour and glory, after all. But then we discover that he has standards of his own, and they appear to be better ones. But THEN it seems that ... I could go on indefinitely, since there are many people here with something to be said for them, and it requires some thought to see who has the most to be said for him in the end.
There's almost no need to mention the excellent performances, photography and music. The only thing one might have qualms about is historical accuracy. Nothing like this ever happened. Still, that makes the movie much less dishonest than those that base themselves on historical events, and then proceed to get them all wrong. You can only be misled by `The Bridge on the River Kwai' if you don't know that it's pure fiction. Well - you know now.
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