Celebrating the 65th Anniversary from director David Lean, Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is the Steel Book 4K Ultra HD, Bluray and Digital classic BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI.
In Thailand, British POW’s arrive in a Japanese prison camp in 1943. Leading the group is British Col. Nicholson (Alec Guinness) who discovers that the camp is in intolerable condition. He meets Commander Shears (William Holden) who confirms that it is bad in the camp and the jungle surrounding it makes escape difficult. Even so, Col. Nicholson forbids any of his men to attempt an escape due to orders.
Running the camp is Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) who makes it clear how they can all survive the war. He wants a bridge built that will make a road from Bangkok to Rangoon. Reminding the Saito that there is such thing as a Geneva Convention, he will not be part of any manual labor, but the enlisted men go. Major Clipton (James Donald) intercedes between the two men when Saito threatens to shoot the refusing officers.
As each day the bridge is not build passes, Nicholson notices that what the Japanese are building will not withstand any crossing. Wanting to have the bridge known as British ingenuity, Nicholson orders the men to work. Saito is aware of what the prisoners are doing knowing that if he does not finish, he is a dead man himself.
Shears manages to actually escape from the prison camp and ends up in a hospital in Ceylon. Enjoying his stay, he is approached by a Major Warden (Jack Hawkins) who wants him to help in a mission to destroy the bridge. Parachuting into Thailand, Shears and his group manages to plant explosives with the help of village chief Khun Yai.
As the bridge celebration is to take place, everything must fall into place for the mission to succeed.
Guinness as Nicholson once again turns in a powerful performance as a self-centered and a tad narcissistic military man who does everything by the rules. Keeping his officers safe by using the rules pits him against the camp’s Colonel. But, his ego gets the better of him and he does the one thing he shouldn’t – builds the bridge. He retains a bit of power and authority and it all goes to his head. Guinness is and always will be one of the great actors in epic films.
Kayakawa as Colonel Saito runs a tight ship, at least that’s the way it looks. Coming up against someone like Nicholson, he tries everything possible to get the one thing he needs done accomplished and that’s the bridge. Kayakawa has a bit of an ego himself but that is nothing compared to the alternative if he does not get the job done.
Holden as Shears is another arrogant character but one that does not see himself staying around a prison camp. Escaping is his first and only thought and certainly not helping Nicholson with building a bridge. That does not last long when he realizes he must go back to the one place on earth he planned to always stay away from. Holden gives us a character full of himself and playing the system to enjoy a war.
Donald as Major Clipton is the medical officer keeping an eye on the overworked soldiers and watching the power match between Nicholson and Saito. He knows that what is happening is clearly wrong but can only be responsible for helping those who are hurt, wounded or sick during the craziness.
Other cast include Andre Moreli as Colonel Green, Peter Williams as Captain Reeves, Keiichiro Katsumoto as Lieutenant Miura, MRB Chakrabandhu as Yai and Goeffrey Horne as Lieutenant Joyce.
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On 4K Ultra HD is Feature presentation in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision, fully restored from the original camera negative with the Special Features of – Crossing the Bridge: Picture-in-Picture Graphics Track, Making of THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, The Steve Allen Show with William Holden and Alec Guinness, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI Premiere Narrated by William Holden, and “Rise and Fall of a Jungle Giant” Featurette.
Also, USC Short Film Introduction by William Holden, An Appreciation by Filmmaker John Milius, Photo Gallery and Theatrical Trailers.
The book Bridge on the River Kwai was written in 1952 by Pierre Boulle and the screenplay began being written by Carl Foreman but would later be taken over Michael Wilson. Boulle would receive the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and it would take many years before Foreman and Wilson would be recognized for their work.
BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI won Best Picture in 1957 and six more Academy Awards. The film also made the National Film Registry in 1997 and in 1999, the film was voted the 11th greatest British film by the British Film Institute.
This is another epic film by David Lean and Hollywood had to know he was going to deliver something stellar in scope. Bringing a story such as this to the screen meant the right place, the right cast and characters that are struggling. The cinematography in the wide shots is stunning considering they are surrounded by jungle.
Watching the story unfold is filled with twists and turns and that, in itself, is something that always captivated me. I actually saw this film for the first time at the drive in with my parents and was taken in from the first frame. I watched it again on television but back then it was a 23-inch screen, so it was not as thrilling. Seeing it again on a 73-inch screen with a sound bar reminded me of the first time I saw it and why it has always stayed with me.
There are good films, there are great films and then there are epic films that stand the test of time and can never be repeated. BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI is one of those films.
In the end – it is a war of the bridge!