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.
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 heels. Their solution - escape to Bolivia.
George Roy Hill
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
Producer Sam Spiegel was en route from Paris to London when he bought the then much-talked about novel by Pierre Boulle out of curiosity. By the time he arrived in London, he had read the novel and decided what his next movie was going to be. He immediately flew back to Paris for a meeting with a surprised Boulle, who agreed to sell him the movie rights. See more »
It wouldn't have been necessary for Joyce, the Canadian, to go to the UK to enlist to fight against the Japanese, as he says when being interviewed to join the commando group going back to the Kwai. Canada joined the war only ten days after war was declared by the British, and Joyce could easily have enlisted at home in Montreal. 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 »
Without belittling `Kwai,' it does seem, looking backwards at David Lean's career, to be a dress rehearsal for the more operatic, tightly controlled (and better written) `Lawrence of Arabia.' Alec Guiness's passionate, detailed performance as Colonel Nicholson, above all other factors, makes Kwai a still watchable and important experience. The screenplay, however, divides unevenly between those who must build the Bridge and those who must destroy it. Ebert, in his Great Movies article, correctly identifies William Holden's character in Kwai as undergoing an implausible transition from escaped POW to martini-guzzling playboy to selfless war hero. Verbatim: `Holden's character, up until the time their guerrilla mission begins, seems fabricated; he's unconvincing playing a shirker, and his heroism at the end seems more plausible.' That, I believe, is also Kwai's greatest weakness. Holden's relationship with Jack Hawkins (playing a parallel role to his General Allenby in Lawrence) seems pallid next to the mighty Guiness/Hayakawa standoff in fact, it seems to be in another movie altogether. Also, Malcolm Arnold's score, which I loved when I was a kid, seems now jarringly inappropriate from start to finish. I am too much influenced, I suppose, by the rock and roll jungle menace of Coppola's `Apocalypse Now.' Lastly, it is many decades past 1957. Images of whistling soldiers, marching proudly after months of captivity, then putting on an `entertainment' more expected in the world of Rodgers and Hammerstein, may ring very false to today's viewer. But keep your eyes fastened tight to Alec Guiness. Kwai is the Everest of his career, and very few actors climb that high.
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