Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Movie of the Week – The Bridge on the River Kwai

This week’s movie: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Taking place during WWII, the film focuses on a Japanese PoW camp. The Japanese treat their British and American prisoners horribly, but one British colonel stands up to them and eventually makes things better for the prisoners. Having settled their differences, the Japanese and the British colonel agree to co-operate to build a railway bridge over the River Kwai, as it seems mutually beneficial. The British take great pride in their work and strive to build the best bridge they can. Meanwhile, the Allies hatch and plan to destroy the bridge as it is a clear strategic target.

The film is directed by the great David Lean (who won an Oscar for his work). It is the first of his brilliant epic films (highlighted as well by Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago). Lean worked with producer Sam Spiegel (who would help finance Lean’s biggest films), composer Malcolm Arnold (whose iconic score won an Oscar), cinematographer Jack Hildyard (whose work also won an Oscar), and art director Donald A. Ashton.

The film stars William Holden, Alec Guinness (a frequent collaborator with Lean, and he won an Oscar for this film), Jack Hawkins, and Sessue Hayakawa.

The Bridge on the River Kwai is one of the greatest film ever made (making my list of the Top 100 Films of the 20th Century). The film won seven Oscars on eight nominations, including Best Picture. It is an iconic WWII film, that captures the corruption of one’s mental state when a prisoner of the enemy. Colonel Nicholson is a great and loyal British officer. He would never do anything to hurt the efforts of the Allies, and yet here he is building this magnificent bridge for the Japanese when they had utterly failed in their previous attempts. The bridge became a way for him and his men to cope with their captivity. It is not until later that he realizes just what he has done (played out in one of cinema’s truly spellbinding scenes). This is a must-see for fans of Lean, WWII films, and cinema in general. It is epic filmmaking at its best.

Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

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