Published on June 9th, 2007 | by Chris1
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
1957's The Bridge on the River Kwai is a classic by any definition of the word. Based on the book "The Bridge Over the River Kwai" by Pierre Boule, it tells the compelling story of a band of British soldiers taken prisoner by the Japanese in Thailand during WWII, and how they overcome their situation by building a magnificent bridge for their captors.
Of course that's just on the surface mind you. Alec Guinness masterfully portrays Col. Nicholson, the "by the book" leader of this group. Nicholson's refusal to give into the less-than-honorable demands of the Japanese Col. Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) earned him a well-deserved Oscar for this role. He effectively takes charge of the camp and the bridge building efforts from Saito due to the latter's incompetence and weakness. He uses the bridge as a means to restore some order and dignity to the men, even though not all of them are on board with the idea.
Then there is "Commander" Shears (William Holden), an American who escapes the camp early on, just as Nicholson and his brigade arrives. He finds his way out of the jungle and back to "civilization," only to be recruited (or blackmailed might be a better term) by British forces to help with destroying Nicholson's bridge.
Sure there are a lot of typically-cheesy "50's" moments ("Lovely!"), but there is a great deal more introspection and commentary on the entire methodology with which we fight most wars, and a lot about the people involved and the so-called rules they're supposed to play by.
And in the end, Guinness' portrayal of Nicholson's ultimate realization is sheer brilliance, and brings everything to a decisive end.
This is one of WMB's top twenty, to be sure. See it someday soon!
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Summary: there are a lot of typically-cheesy "50's" moments ("Lovely!"), but there is a great deal more introspection and commentary on the entire methodology with which we fight most wars, and a lot about the people involved and the so-called rules they're supposed to play by.