161 Min. | Adventure – Drama – History | October 1957
IMDB Rating: 8.2
Director: David Lean
Starring: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins
The Bridge on the River Kwai Review
The Bridge on the River Kwai, David Lean’s first epic, a genre he would later be associated with more than any other. Previously having made his mark as a director of deep and often psychological dramas, Lean’s easy transition into bigger pictures reflects the change that was taking place in the genre itself, moving from the grandiose spectacle of De Mille et al, towards the “intimate” epic of the late 50s and early 60s. We are also here seeing the development of the war, or rather, the anti-war picture.
Prior to this most anti-war or anti-military pictures were small-scale dramas, whereas all the big war films were rousing flag wavers. Bridge on the River Kwai ticks both boxes, and is all the more effective for it. The Bridge on the River Kwai is an anti-war film which prevents itself from becoming static or preachy, and an action film with a humanist edge. The problem presented to David Lean, aside from the fact that he had never done anything on this scale before, is that Michael Wilson and Carl Foreman’s multi-layered screenplay contains many different strands, with stories told from multiple points of view.
One other part worthy mentioning is James Donald as the medical officer of Guinness’s battalion. He has great affection for Guinness, but apparently he’s the only one in the POW camp that sees the implication of what the British prisoners are being ordered to do by their commander and also who’ll tell Guinness ever so gently. And Donald puts the final coda on The Bridge on the River Kwai with his words that end this great film achievement.
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