Friday, November 5, 2010

#184 The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)


Director: David Lean

Cast: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Sessue Hayakawa, Jack Hawkins, James Donald, Geoffery Horne, André Morell

A great war classic (based on the novel of the same name by Pierre Boulle) famous for showcasing one of the smaller-battles of war--the struggles of men whom were not necessarily front-line heroes, but still heroes nonetheless. British POWs during World War II are put to work to build a bridge over the River Kwai under the command of Japanese commander Saito. With his own life and honor on the line, Saito decides to put the British officers to work as well (which breaks one of the conditions of the Geneva Convention). Thus, a war of wills begins between Saito and British officer Nicholson, who for the morale of his men and sheer principle, refuses to work.

When the war of wills is won and Nicholson is put in charge of the bridge project, he begins organizing the construction of a bridge that will not merely stand as a makeshift temporary passage bridge, but rather a testament of the true skill and pride of the entire British army. Soon it becomes confused as to whether or not this bridge is for Britain or a monument to his own ego-- as he walks the line between leader and traitor, even found enlisting workers who are sick or injured.

When the British army commands that the bridge be destroyed and sends a small outfit to complete the demolition (including one American who had just escaped the work camp on the Kwai), Nicholson is eventually faced with the battle between his pride, his country, his duty, and his ego.

While at moments very suspenseful, I am surprised that this film is remembered as such an masterpiece epic. On the whole, not very much happens in this film-- truthfully, absolutely no subplots exist beyond the main bridge story. William Holden's character was unique to the screenplay and adds a sort of genuine raw masculinity to the picture. In fact, after the film I watched a short documentary on the making of the film, and the trials and tribulations of actually engineering the bridge and demolishing it were quite fascinating and made me appreciate the film much more.

No comments:

Post a Comment