The Bridge On The River Kwai (7/24/12) &(9/20/12)

Bridge on the River KwaiMovie One Hundred Seventy Four and Two Hundred Fifteen

A group of British POWs are held by the Japanese during World War II and forced to build The Bridge On The River Kwai.

During World War II, after Singapore’s surrender, a group of British troops are led to Thailand as Japanese prisoners and put to work on the railway to Burma and building a bridge over the River Kwai. Lt. Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guiness) is at odds with the Japanese Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) over officers having to do the same amount of work as the privates and Saito refuses to back down, putting Nicholson in “the oven” without food or water. Unwilling to compromise, upon his release from the oven, Nicholson decides to cooperate and build the bridge as a sign of British ingenuity and loyalty for years to come. Nicholson pushes his men hard to complete the bridge, unaware of the plot to blow up the very bridge he has committed himself to.

The Bridge On The River Kwai is a fantastic war epic from David Lean that is fictionalized but historically rooted. Never having seen the full movie in one straight shot, I was worried that the long run time (161 minutes) would bog things down or would create a plot that would be hard to follow. While the film is largely a slow boil, the last 30 minutes or so are incredibly tense and fly by. Amazing performances and direction really help with the pacing of The Bridge On The River Kwai, much like David Lean’s other famous epic, Lawrence of Arabia, which is even longer.

One thing I have to point out is how terrific the blu-ray of The Bridge On The River Kwai looks and sounds. Many consider blu-ray to be a format only for cutting-edge special effects films, but this is a shining example of a restored 55 year old film can bring to the format. The picture is, in a word, stunning. The package as a whole matches the picture. For a non-Criterion/Masters of Cinema release, the care taken here is obvious.

While certainly not for everyone, The Bridge On The River Kwai is a unique war movie with a great cast, interesting plot, superb direction. The runtime is certainly a hurdle, but I thought the time flew by after the first 45 minutes or so. The Bridge On The River Kwai certainly worth a shot and once viewed, it’s sure to be a favorite.


I was lucky enough to see Bridge on the River Kwai again, this time on the big screen. While I quite enjoyed the film the first time around, seeing it again while it was still fresh in my mind made me realize how amazing the film really is. While I still thought the first 30-45 minutes felt long, I understood everything much better this time around. The motivations, the unsaid megalomania, the setting; it all made perfect sense and goes to show what an excellently crafted film Bridge on the River Kwai really is. The theatrical transfer was actually disappointing compared to the blu-ray for at least 20 minutes, it was very grainy but in-focus, and then it was almost like wiping the mirror after a hot shower. The film shone brightly and put the fantastic looking blu-ray to task.

Note that I will be upgrading my score from a 4 to a 5 after this second viewing.

I give it 4real bridges on the River Kwai out of 5.


Rotten Tomatoes


24 responses to “The Bridge On The River Kwai (7/24/12) &(9/20/12)

  1. Seeing as you bring it up Andy, I actually think its older films that benefit the most from Blu ray. For a lot of them, this is the biggest and brightest we’ve ever seen them! For example, the Connery Bonds have never looked better.

    The only beef I can imagine with “Kwai” is that the Holden portion of the movie could be trimmed down quite a bit. It runs too long. Aside from that, this is a CLASSIC!

    • I definitely own more “legacy” films on blu than anything else, honestly. It’s really amazing how amazing this stuff can look with the proper care taken.

      I could have also done with a little less Holden, that’s partially why I left him out of my plot synopsis. He was the big star for the film, so I understand why he’s so prominent, but Guiness was the real treat for me. Definitely a classic. Thanks!

  2. One of those I have meant to see, but haven’t. I have seen Lawrence of Arabia and no that was a great movie – long, but great. Nice review.

  3. One of my favourite films of all time! I must have seen this one a hundred times. I found it curious that you found the running time such a big deal here but not for the latest two Batman movies, which have pretty much the same running time.

    Alec Guiness’ character is superbly well developed, and complex and there are so many ways to see the ending of the film. A real classic, and the fighting spirit of the Brits in the film does us proud. Love it!

    • I hope I did the film justice, then!
      I think my main issue with the runtime for Bridge came after Nicholson gets out of the oven and the setup that comes along with that but the second half of the film simply screams by. I wasn’t put off by the runtime so much as I noticed it (during the first half). I would definitely say the same for Dark Knight Rises, which has about the same length.
      I don’t shy away from movies that break the two and half hour marker, but I know some people are adverse to it so I thought it was worth mentioning.

  4. i know, i should have but i have never seen this, but it was always on at Christmas as a kid! old films does transfer well to Blu ray much of the time, old film seems to capture real colour and depth and blu ray can often represent this, well done for pointing that out.

    • I think we’re so used to seeing movies from this era shown on TV that we just assume they look kind of crappy and washed out but this one is so clear and vibrant, it’s really stunning.

  5. Good review, I actually haven’t seen either of Lean’s classic movies but I feel like this is the one I’d start with. Its still hard to not see Guinness as Obi wan Kenobi, which is unfortunate because he’s such a great actor outside of Star Wars.

    • I agree that it’s hard to see him as anyone other than Obi Wan. Unrelated to this film, but check out Kind Hearts and Coronets, Guiness plays several characters in it and it’s just a joy to watch.

  6. One of my dad’s favorites – it’s that kind of war film, yes – and expertly acted with quite a lot at stake; it transcends the genre, actually, to ask big moral questions.

  7. Pingback: My July Movies Round-Up | Andy Watches Movies

      • The way it’s meant to be seen! (i.e. jealous) Incidentally, according to the Lawrence of Arabia FB page, Sony is re-releasing Lawrence of Arabia to theaters for one-night only on October 4 in honour of the films 50th anniversary.

        • Indeed! I’ve got that one on my calendar as well!
          It’s an exciting time for all these restorations in the advent of blu-ray. I’m glad that these great films are getting to look better than ever before.

  8. Pingback: My September Movies Round-Up | Andy Watches Movies

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