The Bridge on the River Kwai

AFI Rank: #13
Year Released: 1957
Director: David Lean
Actors: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa

One of the most famous WWII movies, Bridge on the River Kwai won seven Oscars, and for good reason. With intricate plotting, stellar acting and well paced cinematography, the movie is not as much about war as it is about human nature.

Lisa Says:
You might consider The Bridge on the River Kwai as unlucky, hitting #13 on their top movies list. The movie is intriguing and eclectic in many ways. First, for a war movie, there is very little fighting going on. The movie is all about the internal, psychological struggles of the main characters. Sessue Hayakawa is a Japanese prison commander who is honor-bound to follow the wishes of his superiors - convince his captives to build an important bridge. Alec Guinness is the equally high-honor British officer who refuses to give way on issues. Finally they work out an agreement, and both sides join forces to build the very best bridge they can.

Unfortunately for the British, the Allies of course do not want this bridge to succeed. William Holden and Jack Hawkins are tromping through enemy territory in the depths of southeastern Asia, trying against all odds to take the bridge down.

This isn't a bullets-flying-every-minute noise fest of death and destruction. It's a very slow, deliberate chain of events that unwind with precision. Each character has flaws - but you also understand the motivations in each situation, that the character really does have reasons for doing what he is doing. Each character gets so wrapped up in his individual goals and situation that he loses track of what is going on around him. That is especially true with Alec Guinness, who won an Oscar for his work here.

This movie is based on a famous book, which is very loosely based on real life events, when the Japanese used slave labor to build a railroad system in Thailand and Burma. The movie is definitely not meant to be a real life biography of any of the characters - it is an abstraction into the nature of war, and how it affects the psyche of those embroiled in it - especially when those characters are extremely isolated.

Highly recommended.

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