Friday, March 29, 2013

324. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Running Time: 161 minutes
Directed By: David Lean
Written By: Carl Foreman, Michael Wilson, from the novel Le pont de la riviere Kwai by Pierre Boulle
Main Cast: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, James Donald
Click here to view the trailer


When I put up that "17 Hours" post the other day, giving a peek at three very long films that I plan to watch soon, I could've just called it "20 hours" and included "The Bridge on the River Kwai" as part of that batch. But what's done is done and more importantly, "The Bridge on the River Kwai" is done!

The film takes place during World War II and our focal point is a Japanese POW camp, where, when we first get into the thick of things, a company of British soldiers are being hauled in. Whistling "The Colonel Bogey March" (see "The Breakfast Club"), they line up and are given their orders. The main orders that they'll receive, via Colonel Saito (Hayakawa) is that they'll be put to work building a bridge over the River Kwai. The bridge will be able to accommodate a set of railroad tracks, opening up Japan's war resources. Lt. Col. Nicholson (Guinness) has no problem with Saito putting the soldiers to work, but refuses to allow him to put the officers to work. Citing the Geneva Convention, he notes that it is illegal for any officers to be forced to do manual labor. For his insubordination, Nicholson is locked up outside, in a hot box, until he has a change of heart. However, the change of heart never comes and when Saito gets desperate enough (he has to have the bridge built by May 12 and it's already March. Failure to complete the bridge and he'd have no other choice but to commit ritual suicide) he lets Nicholson out and agrees not to make him work, but simply supervise. Meanwhile, US Navy Commander Shears (Holden) has escaped the POW camp and found refuge at a nearby village, of which the villagers help him escape via boat. He is then picked up by members of his own forces and is sent to recover at a hospital. During recovery, he is visited by Major Warden (Hawkins), who asks Shears to return to the site of the POW camp, so that he may help them blow up the bridge that is being constructed. Shears, of course, has reservations.


Man, was this movie rough to get through. I'd seen BOTRK once before and remembered liking it mildly, so I wasn't that concerned with giving it another go for the sake of THE BOOK. But man, this time around something went South and in a hurry. The premise of the film isn't bad. You've got a determined Lieutenant Colonel, who is refusing to work and an arrogant, yet likable troublemaker who wants to escape. For a while, however, I wasn't sure who we were supposed to be cheering for and who was supposed to be the heel. I mean, of course, the Japanese were the heels, but what about Nicholson (even in the beginning). Here you had a guy who was refusing to work, even though he had no trouble having his men serve Col. Saito's purposes. So, wanting to be a big cry baby about the whole thing, he gets locked up in a little tin box, outside in the sweltering heat and I can't say he didn't deserve it. So we spend like an hour of screen time (maybe more) with Nicholson - he's in the box, he's pulled out and talked to but he refuses, so he's back in the box and then Saito finally can't take it anymore so he gives in. Really!! That took an hour?? I've got to say this film managed their time incredibly poorly and no wonder the damn thing was nearly three hours, as they took forever to get certain points across. Had they trimmed this down some and gotten it to flow a little smoother, this could've been a lot better. I'm not saying it was ever going to blow me out of the water because, what can I say, I was never going to get that excited about the construction of a bridge. Something about that just doesn't light a fire under me. And, of course, you've got the whole "Look at what war drives a man to" storyline, but that doesn't get developed until the second act and when Nicholson's great lengths are finally cemented, it's nearly time for the end.

Now then, the end? Now that's some exciting movie making. You've got all sorts of incredible things happening onscreen and what do they do? The one time the movie actually gets things moving along too fast!! But really, it is some good stuff. You've got the Nicholson finally coming to his senses, Joyce manning up and killing Saito and of course, the blowing up of the bridge!! Also the whole piece with Nicholson seeing the detonation wires is pretty gripping stuff. But really, that was the whole movie for me, at least the good stuff. I wasn't crazy about Holden here. Come to think of it, I wasn't crazy about Holden in anything I've watched of his via THE BOOK. Now "Stalag 17" - there's a Holden flick. Guinness was pretty spot on here, I'll give them that, but it wasn't enough and ultimately the ending only served to be too little, too late for this film to win me over. Ultimately, this is one bridge I'd rather not cross again.

RATING: 4/10  I'll give it some points and it certainly wasn't the worst thing I've watched this season, but it was a rough one to get through. By the by, I'll be starting "Shoah" as my next movie and since it's nine hours long, you may not see me for a few days. See ya when I see ya.


March 29, 2013  5:54pm


  1. Interesting..
    There is a lot of good about this film... interplay of strong characters, moral dilemma, flawed leads.. it's all there..
    So why is the over all feeling its just too beep long?
    I think it is trying to be two films.. a jolly old stlye adventure war film... gallent band battles through jungle to blw up bridge... verses a story of a battle of wills between two people who come to respect each other despite being on oposing sides.

    1. I had never thought about the two different stories aspect, but now that you mention it, I kind of agree. It seems that if there'd been a little more focus, it could've been a home run. They were so close to really being onto something here, as it pertains to me personal tastes.


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