The Bridge on the River Kwai

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Overview

The Bridge on the River Kwai opens in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Burma in 1943, where a battle of wills rages between camp commander Colonel Saito Sessue Hayakawa and newly arrived British colonel Nicholson Alec Guinness. Saito insists that Nicholson order his men to build a bridge over the river Kwai, which will be used to transport Japanese munitions. Nicholson refuses, despite all the various "persuasive" devices at Saito's disposal. Finally, Nicholson agrees, not so much to cooperate with his captor ...
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Overview

The Bridge on the River Kwai opens in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Burma in 1943, where a battle of wills rages between camp commander Colonel Saito Sessue Hayakawa and newly arrived British colonel Nicholson Alec Guinness. Saito insists that Nicholson order his men to build a bridge over the river Kwai, which will be used to transport Japanese munitions. Nicholson refuses, despite all the various "persuasive" devices at Saito's disposal. Finally, Nicholson agrees, not so much to cooperate with his captor as to provide a morale-boosting project for the military engineers under his command. The colonel will prove that, by building a better bridge than Saito's men could build, the British soldier is a superior being even when under the thumb of the enemy. As the bridge goes up, Nicholson becomes obsessed with completing it to perfection, eventually losing sight of the fact that it will benefit the Japanese. Meanwhile, American POW Shears William Holden, having escaped from the camp, agrees to save himself from a court martial by leading a group of British soldiers back to the camp to destroy Nicholson's bridge. Upon his return, Shears realizes that Nicholson's mania to complete his project has driven him mad. Filmed in Ceylon, Bridge on the River Kwai won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for the legendary British filmmaker David Lean, and Best Actor for Guinness. It also won Best Screenplay for Pierre Boulle, the author of the novel on which the film was based, even though the actual writers were blacklisted writers Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson, who were given their Oscars under the table.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Richard Gilliam
The Bridge on the River Kwai ranks as one of the greatest films of all time and arguably director David Lean's best film. At the heart of the film is the performance of Alec Guinness as the obsessively principled Colonel Nicholson. In a lesser film, his character might be simplified into a heroic martyr, but The Bridge on the River Kwai revels in its moral ambiguity: no significant character is either purely a hero or purely a villain. Filmed in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), the film features brutal prisoner-of-war work camps that are nonetheless considerably nicer than their historical counterparts, a good decision since it frees the audience to focus on the battle of wills, at first between Nicholson and Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), later between Shears (William Holden) and Warden (Jack Hawkins). The film's closing line ("Madness... Madness") is among the best-known and most enigmatic closings in screen history. The film received seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (Guinness).
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 7/8/1994
  • UPC: 043396721135
  • Original Release: 1957
  • Rating:

  • Source: Sony Pictures
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
William Holden Shears
Alec Guinness Col. Nicholson
Jack Hawkins Maj. Warden
Sessue Hayakawa Col. Saito
Geoffrey Horne Lieutenant Joyce
James Donald Maj. Clipton
Andre Morell Col. Green
Peter Williams Capt. Reeves
John Boxer Maj. Hughes
Percy Herbert Pvt. Grogan
Harold Goodwin Pvt. Baker
Ann Sears Nurse
Henry Okawa Capt. Kanematsu
Technical Credits
David Lean Director
Gus Agosti Asst. Director
Malcolm Arnold Score Composer
Donald M. Ashton Art Director
Pierre Boulle Screenwriter
John Cox Sound/Sound Designer
Cecil F. Ford Production Manager
Carl Foreman Screenwriter
Stuart Freeborn Makeup
Jack Hildyard Cinematographer
Peter Newbrook Camera Operator
George Partleton Makeup
Sam Spiegel Producer
Ted Sturgis Asst. Director
Peter Taylor Editor
Michael Wilson Screenwriter
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(8)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    arguably the best WWII film ever!

    starting out with the famous river kwai march, this movie greatly details the lives of allied prisoners in japanesw pow camps. it also greatly represents the mental strain one can suffer there, specifically the character played by alec guiness. he gives a better than ever preformance, and it has arguably the best ending in cinema history. without a doubt, watch this movie, you wont regret it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    a bridge to violent times

    Well, this isn’t another war movie, but a very special one, over all considering it’s from 1957. Colonel Nicholson is a stubborn chief of the British Army. His enemy, the Japanese Col. Saito I think isn’t so stiff. It’s mostly the Bushido code that speaks for him and furthermore, he manages brutally the concentration camp, but Saito has a problem: he must build a bridge over the Kwai river and his engineers are unable to do these task. So, Nicholson, who seems to think in spite of his temporal defeat the Japanese are inferior to the British, with the excuse of preserve the moral of his men, decides to collaborate in the making of the bridge. That has to cost Nicholson to fall in treason, as his affection for codes and rules predominates over the main duty of a soldier: destroy the enemy. In effect, Nicholson is a sort of product of the Victorian and British colonial era, and he speaks with affect of his service time in India, a country by then, near to independence. So, when the tricky but vital soldier played by William Holden exposes the disastrous conditions of the camp, Nicholson is astonished: “This man is an eccentric, even considering he’s an American”, says. Holden is a man with a more modern and civil ideas. Nicholson and Saito are the past, but WW II is yet a modern war, not a colonial restricted one. So, with these antecedents, you can understand better the strange madness in what Nicholson falls: he’s by career, by nature or both, an obsessive man, and so, becomes obsessed with the bridge in itself and forgets he’s working for the enemy. A commando attack is made following the information provided by Holden, and Nicholson recovers the reason only a few seconds before he’s killed. The allied commando is directed curiously by a scholar from Cambridge played by Jack Hawkins, and Holden also perceives something lethal in his character. Effectively WW II gave pass to today’s high rate violent crime. David Lean had in this film a surprising instinct unequalled in his other works, also very good, but this is for me the best.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2011

    Brilliant film showing contrast between Allies

    This is easily one of the finest films ever, not just as a war movie, but as a motion picture in general. Sir Alec Guinness is simply brilliant as the British commander who tries so stubbornly to stand up to the Japanese but ends up collaborating with them. William Holden's character shows the stark contrast between the British military tradition and the American way of war. The Brits are trying to keep up a proud tradition and the honor of their regiment. To the Yanks the war was much more basic. I know many vets from both armies and the Americans had a more pragmatic view of the war. Lean shows this in the film. While Guinness stands up for his unit's honor and tradition, Holden is there for only one thing; to defeat the enemy. This was a true reflection on the two nations way of fighting. We Americans were there only to win. No matter what had to be done. This often caused strain between the Allies. The Brits often looked at things in shades of gray, the Yanks usually just in black and white. The ending reflects this contrast as Guinness realizes that his good intentions have gone far awry. A true masterpiece.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A great warm-up to Lawrence of Arabia

    As the author of the epic hi-fantasy BLOODSPILLER, now available at iuniverse.com and soon here at BN.com, I have long since adored intelligent epics, both in book form and in movies. As with most David Lean movies of the 1950's and 1960's, this film is a visual stunner, but also a joy to the ear. No word of dialogue is wasted, the script brimming with typical British irony and a sense that the world, is indeed, mad. William Holden's acting persona had always been well-suited to cynical throw-away lines, and in Bridge he revels in it when confronted by a force greater than his own---the indomitable British will and discipline, the steely-nerved soldier who had ruled most of the world for a hundred years against much greater numbers. Who can forget the Battle of Omdurman, in which the British square of 10,000 men under Lord Kitchener, held off and defeated 100,000 Sudanese and finally broke the back of their rebellion.It is this mindset that controls Alec Guiness, his sense of misplaced honor in this instance, that sets him upon the task of building the bridge in that steaming, Burmese jungle. That he drives Sesu Hayakawa literally to madness, is exquisite. Folks, this is a fabulous movie for the thinking-man's fan, a mere warm-up for the greatest movie of all time which he would direct in 1962, starring Peter O'toole ( I'm not telling! )If you haven't seen bridge, I won't give away the ending, cause it will knock your socks off, This has been for many. many years one of my favorate movies. Buy it! You'l love it1 I promise!!!

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    Posted January 16, 2012

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    Posted July 8, 2009

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    Posted October 26, 2008

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    Posted January 9, 2010

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    Posted January 4, 2011

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    Posted November 1, 2010

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