"David Lean's "Bridge on the River Kwai" is one of my favorite movies of all time, and one one the greatest war movies of all time, but a differnt war movie. Can the civilized Colonel Nichoson (brilliantly played by Alec Guinness and won him an Academy Award for best actor) defy the brutal Japanese Colonel Saito(Sessue Hayakawa, also brilliant)and win the war of wills? At first we think he won't but the plot takes a strange turn and this Nicholson turns out to be as fanatic as Saito is in the prison camp. Beautifully shot in Ceylon(Sri Lanka) serving well for Burma by Freddie Young, Lean's great photographer also for "Lawrence of Arabia" the viewer can feel the heat and humidity, see the starving appearance of the prisoners, who start buiding the bridge as a lark until Nicholson wins his points of honor and they work harder than ever. My favorite line in the movie is one of Colonel Saito's favorite sayings: "Be happy in your work," which takes on more and more irony as the film and story unfolds. There is a side plot, with William Holden barely escaping, only to be brought back back with hard-core commandoes(led by demolitions expert Jack Hawkins) to the camp to blow up the bridge. This is a wonderful psychological and subtle war film, with just enough adventure and action to balance its war of words, over the Geneva Covention(Nicholson keeps a copy of it in his pocket and then is slapped with it by Saito)over points of British stiff upper lip and Japanese warrior code,Bushido, two vastly different viewpoints but in the end breed fanatics. The acting, editing, writing,and photography are all flawless. This is one of the few war movies made forty ago that still rank with any today. A true masterpiece, much imitated. Lean is a director of place and attends to all the small details, from the ratty prisoner uniforms,a Japanese sentry standing guard in the heavy rainfall, and the haunting whistling of the entire ragged British company, marching tired and disease-infested into a new camp just after Holden has been digging graves. And the camp doctor, well-played by James Donald, saying "Madness! Madness! after watching the bridge being blown while a train crosses over. A true classic of any genre. The restored version is excellent and again , since I saw this movie on a large screen, see it if you can at the theater, even if you own this video. It is that good."
David Lean's anti-war masterpiece in all it's glory......
P. Ferrigno | Melbourne, Victoria Australia | 11/22/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The release of David Lean's powerful, intelligent and thought provoking anti-war masterpiece on widescreen DVD accompanied by the added bonus documentary "The Making of the Bridge on the River Kwai", along with other featurette's, theatrical trailers and an appreciation of the film by noted director, John Milius, is indeed a cause for celebration amongst cinema afficiando's of this most superb of motion pictures.The remarkable novel by Pierre Boulle (also author of "Monkey Planet"...filmed as the memorable "Planet of the Apes") is masterfully brought to the screen by director David Lean, a true genius behind many historical epics. Deep inside snake ridden Asian jungles, British and American prisoners of war toil under the sweltering tropical sun working on part of the infamous Burma railway that claimed thousands of Allied lives during WWII. Colonel Saito (talented Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa) presides over his POW camp with an iron rule...driving his Japanese troops as hard as his malnourished prisoners. Enter the honorable and steadfast English POW, Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guiness in an Oscar winning performance) refusing to capitulate to Saito's demands that British officers perform manual labour alongside enlisted men. Each man's blind adherance to their own personal code of honor sees the two men plunge into a psychological war of will, bravado and courage...each determined not to waver from their personal beliefs.As these two leaders clash with each other, American prisoner of war and resident camp gravedigger, Shears (William Holden) effects on escape from the brutal prison camp and after nearing death, he makes his way back to the Allied forces. Unfortunately for the timid Shears, he is coerced to guide a suicidal commando mission with Major Warden (Jack Hawkins) and Lieutenant Joyce (Geoffrey Horne) to return to the enemy infested jungles and blow up the railway bridge being built by Nicholson and the British prisoners of war. Each differing path taken by Nicholson, Saito & Shears eventually intertwines and ultimately sees the three men confront their own inner fears and beliefs with tragic circumstances.... Seven Oscars bear testament to the wonderful attributes of this movie....including Best Picture and Best Actor...plus "Kwai" is regularly listed by critics as one of the most influential and highly regarded movies of the 20th century. For some additional in-depth behind the scenes reading on "The Bridge on the River Kwai" check out the insightful William Holden biograpy entitled "Golden Boy". Excellent reading !!Quite simply an absolute "must have" addition to any DVD collection, "The Bridge on the River Kwai" remains a benchmark in inspirational movie making....I cannot recommend this film highly enough !!"
1 Bridge, 2 Immovable Forces, 3 Great Stars, SEVEN OSCARS!
L. Shirley | fountain valley, ca United States | 01/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This review refers to Columbia/Tri Star 2000 release DVD of "The Bridge on the River Kwai"....I am still whistling that wonderful theme song from this film(I watched it 2 days ago),"Colonel Bogey March". From the moment the British soldiers march into the Japaneese P.O.W. camp, whistling that tune I was once again hooked on this fabulous World War II movie!The story, based on the novel by Pierre Boulle, is loosely based on actual events that occured during the war.The very proper Colonel Nicholson(Alec Guinness) leads his captured,but proud and tattered British troops into the Japaneese P.O.W. camp they have been assigned to.It is there that he comes face to face with the commander of the camp, the equally proper Colonel Saito(Sessue Hayakawa).Saito and Nicholson are immediatly at odds, concerning the assignment of the British, to build a railway bridge for their enemies over the River Kwai.Both men are highly principled in their beliefs, stubborn in their ways and will not give in where their honor is concerned.Saito seems to have the upper hand, using cruel and unusual punishment to try to persuade Nicholson, but to no avial. The bridge must be built and eventually they come to a compromise.Nicholson sets his men to the task in an almost obssessive way and takes great pride in the job his men are doing.Meanwhile......an escapee from the camp, American sailor Shears(William Holden),whose only ambition is to get home, has now "volunteered" to lead a task force, including the over zealous British commander Major Warden(Jack Hawkins),back to the camp so they can blow up the bridge.And of course you know with Holden leading the team there will also be some romance mixed in with the action!It's a great adventure from start to finish. Directed by David Lean with perfection, filmed in the breathtaking locales of Ceylon, with an engaging script by Michael Wilson and Carl Foreman, you'll fall in love with this epic film.It recieved the Best Picture(1957) Award from Oscar and also garnered a Best Director for Lean, and Best Actor for Guinness, as well as Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, and Music Scoring!You will not miss one detail of the jungles in this beautifully remastered DVD. The colors are sharp and vibrant. It is presented in the original theatrical widescreen(anamorphic), aspect ratio 2.55:1, and every bit of scenery right to the edges is outstanding. The choices on the sound are 5.1 Dol Dig or 2.0 surround. The dialouge is crisp and clear, as is the musical score. The surrounding sounds are not quite as clear but is still good. It may be viewed in several languages or with subtitles as well. There is not too much on the special features on this edition(see tech info), however there is a "Limited Edition" for not much more than this one with a ton of extras(if only I'd known when I bought this one...),that is also by Columbia so I would guess the picture and sound are excellent as well.One of the best war movies ever made..go for it..Laurie"
Whistle (and go mad) while you work
Mike Stone | 07/30/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If someone had the inclination, "Bridge on the River Kwai" could have been divided into two very respectable movies. The first, concerning a group of British prisoners of war charged with erecting the title piece, would have been a neat little psychological drama and character study starring Alec Guinness and Sessue Hayakawa. The second, an action-adventure thriller, would follow William Holden, accompanied by Jack Hawkins, as they braved the harsh Asian jungle in a plot to blow up said title piece. Each movie, as I see them in my own head, would have their fair share of suspense, action, snappy dialogue, intriguing characters, and powerful narrative thrust. Each would have been a critical success, a popular smash, and an enduring classic. However, they are not two movies. They are one cohesive whole. And here the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.David Lean skillfully weaves these the two narrative threads together. Even with a 160 minute running time, Lean never wastes a moment. Everything leads to something else, and it is always entertaining. Lean is that rare director who has a firm handle on both the visual and narrative elements of his films. He reigns both in here with considerable skill, only showing what the audience needs to see, and what he wants them to see.As in most war movies, madness is a theme that runs rampant. Each of the main characters has dipped into some sort of madness, which manifests itself in four unique and intriguing ways.Guinness is Col. Nicholson, a by the book British officer. He carries around a copy of the Geneva Convention, and expects his Japanese captors, isolated for many months in the jungle, to adhere to them. Guinness' greatest work here is in portraying Nicholson's stubbornness in the face of grave danger, and his pride in a job well done. It could have been a showy role in the hands of a lesser actor, as there is a temptation to externalize Nicholson's crumble from sanity. Guinness is subtle beyond the call of duty (even in his physical portrayal; one moment has him, after a long stint imprisoned in an oven-like box, paraded in front of his men. Catch Nicholson trying to march with military precision on legs terrorized by atrophy. It is a heartbreaking, and heroic, moment).Colonel Saito, played by Hayakawa, is a man caught in a most unenviable position. In the beginning, he appears to be holding all the cards. But as we soon see, he is as much a pawn as the prisoners he's captured, indebted as much to his superiors as to his honour of duty. The problem with the character of Colonel Saito, and really the only hole in the whole film, is that he is supposed to be a menacing character. But we never see him be menacing; we have to rely on the word of Commander Shears. A scene of him killing in cold blood would have gone a long way later on, when his transition to Guinness' subordinate would have been even more powerful.Major Warden, played by Hawkins, comes late to the story, but has much to say about how the second half will play out. He too is controlled by a sense of British duty, but his madness exhibits itself in a less controlled way. Warden, who's spent most of his time playing war games in a tropical paradise of a base, expects his mission to be a walk in the park. The horrors he encounters (both physical and psychological) are unexpected and hit him much harder than the others. Hawkins, as both the English gentleman and the tormented soldier, does a fine job.Holden plays probably the most intriguing character. His Commander Shears has lived with his madness the longest, and has developed an ironic anti-hero callus to shield himself from the horrors. We first see him digging graves for his fallen comrades, of which he is the last to survive. From there, his situation gets much worse. Shears adopts a mocking tone when confronting his superiors, parakeeting their catch phrases ("When you're done, there's always one more thing to do"; "Be happy in your work") to the point of ridiculing them. And even when he manages to escape the physical prison, he manages to get drawn back there against his will.The prevailing madness of the film comes to a head in the end as Major Clipton, the camp's doctor and arguably the only character not afflicted by insanity up to this point (and probably my favourite character), has a Conrad-like epiphany. It's a moment that rivals Kurtz' "The horror! The horror!" from "Heart of Darkness" and "Kwai's" war-movie progeny "Apocalypse Now".Even though many of its themes are psychological, it's no surprise why "Kwai" became both a popular and critical success. It has all the elements of a grand classic: an all-star cast, tight suspense, lush scenery, humour, drama, finely drawn characters, intense action, and well-scripted dialogue. And of course, there's the great whistling scene; nothing better than a bright melody to cut through the horrors of war. It's a charming little scene that both brings a smile to your face and warns of tough times ahead."
"There really aren't enough superlatives to describe the beauty, power and human drama in this film. The restoration is magnificent, the photography beautiful and the story compelling. Sessue Hayakawa gives a masterful performance as Colonel Saito; easily the most complex portrayal of any Japanese person in WWII movie history. He is completely unable to understand the British sense of honor, since being taken prisoner in the Japanese mindset is the ultimate dishonor. Yet he is also unable to deny that he and his own officers are simply not competent enough to tackle the task at hand, namely to build a railway bridge across the River Kwai -- and do so under a non-negotiable deadline. To fail this task would cause his own public dishonor, yet to yield to the contest of wills with Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness), whom he desperately needs to build the bridge, would cause him to suffer a loss of face and deep personal dishonor -- a Hobson's choice. Alec Guinness is simply brilliant in his role -- and simply British. On one level he is the quintessential British colonial master, out to "teach these people a lesson...that will put them to shame". His pride allows him to convince himself that building the bridge is nothing more than a morale booster for his men -- never mind that it furthers the Japanese war effort. He reasons that since he was ordered to surrender that to then refuse to do his captor's bidding might be considered tantamount to insubordination. But beyond doing what is merely necessary, he becomes obsessed with building a bridge that will last hundreds of years. In reality he is constructing a monument to himself, since he is now in the twilight of his military career. William Holden gives a wonderful performance as Shears, the only American to witness this contest of wills. He is much more interested in living "like a human being" and avoiding any military duty than dying for such a twisted sense of "honor". However, though, circumstances dictate that he become the proverbial reluctant hero. There are so many other outstanding touches and performances in this film that to describe them all would take more time than it would to simply watch it. In this case, one picture is truly worth a thousand words. See this movie."