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Download The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957 Movie Legally
Year:
1957
Country:
USA, UK
Genre:
Drama, Adventure, War
IMDB rating:
8.3
Director:
David Lean

 

          The Bridge on the River Kwai IMDb    The Bridge on the River Kwai Wikipedia    The Bridge on the River Kwai Soundtrack

William Holden as Shears
Alec Guinness as Colonel Nicholson
Jack Hawkins as Major Warden
Sessue Hayakawa as Colonel Saito
James Donald as Major Clipton
Geoffrey Horne as Lieutenant Joyce
André Morell as Colonel Green (as Andre Morell)
Peter Williams as Captain Reeves
John Boxer as Major Hughes
Percy Herbert as Grogan
Ann Sears as Nurse
Heihachiro Okawa as Captain Kanematsu (as Henry Okawa)
Keiichirô Katsumoto as Lieutenant Miura (as K. Katsumoto)
The Bridge on the River Kwai Storyline: The film deals with the situation of British prisoners of war during World War II who are ordered to build a bridge to accommodate the Burma-Siam railway. Their instinct is to sabotage the bridge but, under the leadership of Colonel Nicholson, they are persuaded that the bridge should be constructed as a symbol of British morale, spirit and dignity in adverse circumstances. At first, the prisoners admire Nicholson when he bravely endures torture rather than compromise his principles for the benefit of the Japanese commandant Saito. He is an honorable but arrogant man, who is slowly revealed to be a deluded obsessive. He convinces himself that the bridge is a monument to British character, but actually is a monument to himself, and his insistence on its construction becomes a subtle form of collaboration with the enemy. Unknown to him, the Allies have sent a mission into the jungle, led by Warden and an American, Shears, to blow up the bridge.
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Reviews
A powerful film experience
I heard a film critic once say that there really aren't "war movies"; there are only "anti-war" movies. I'm still not sure what I think of that claim, but having seen - The Bridge on the River Kwai- enough times in the past several years, I think I'm persuaded that it's at least half right. -Kwai-, I believe, is both a "war" and "anti-war" movie, and, in my view, it succeeds admirably at both.

There is almost no element of -Kwai- that is not praise-worthy. David Lean's direction is tight and evocative. The cinematography is great (even though the color seems increasingly drained in film versions that I have seen). The acting is top-notch. I honestly believe that this is Alec Guiness's best performance, and Sessue Hayakawa is also highly sympathetic and believable. William Holden and Jack Hawkins round out the cast nicely.

The musical score is also right on. Simply put, -Kwai- is an excellently constructed film made by people who obviously cared a great deal about it. As a result, the viewer comes to care a great deal about it as well.

Clearly -Kwai- is an anti-war film. There is no glorification here. War is brutal, period. It's brutality is not captured here in terms of gory carnage or senseless battles. Instead, the psychological dimension of brutality comes across clearly. Yet, -Kwai- also shows the resilience of the human spirit as well as its complexity. One is left wondering if participation in World War II not only psychologically brutalized the characters played by Guiness, Hayakawa, and Holden but also if it simultaneously uplifted them. The paradox is striking to me each time I view this film. War can act both as a positive and negative catalyst, and it can do both of these things at the same instant.

So, is -The Bridge on the River Kwai- a war movie or an anti-war movie? I think Lean clearly preferred the latter, but the subject matter and his approach to it may have landed somewhere in between.

Regardless, -Kwai- is a fantastic film experience and is not to be missed. It is, simply put, my very favorite film--bar none.
1999-12-10
American Versus British Values
This movie is about a clash of cultures, partly between East and West, the Orient and the Occident, but even more so between America and Great Britain, between American cynicism, individualism, and egalitarianism on the one hand, and idealistic, class-conscious British collectivism on the other.

Shears is the sole American in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, while the rest of the prisoners are British. This underscores his individualism. It turns out later that he is really an enlisted man posing as an officer, showing his contempt for class distinctions. He thought being an officer would mean that he would not have to work as hard as a prisoner. Since that did not go as planned, he bribes the guards to give him light duty. And he regularly ridicules the British dedication to the war effort.

The British on the other hand regard the distinction between officers and enlisted men as sacrosanct. This is especially embodied in commanding officer Colonel Nicholson, who balks when he finds out, as did Shears, that the Japanese camp commander, Colonel Saito, requires officers to work right alongside the enlisted men. He refuses to order his men to work and suffers several days of harsh punishment as a result. Saito eventually has to relent and let the British officers merely supervise the work of enlisted men, because he needs to get the title bridge built.

But then, half-way through the movie, after Shears has escaped and winds up in a British hospital, everything goes into reverse. Major Warden, a British officer, coerces Shears into going back to sabotage the railroad bridge in the camp he escaped from, which will allow Shears to avoid being prosecuted for impersonating an officer. The other member of the team will be Lieutenant Joyce, so Warden says he will make Shears a major for the purpose of the mission, so that the rigid distinction between officers and enlisted men will not have to be observed.

Meanwhile, back in the jungle, Nicholson is anxious to get the bridge built, and to build it as an example of British engineering excellence. The other officers are in favor of surreptitiously delaying the building of the bridge and making sure that it is inferior, so as to minimize their assistance to the enemy, but Nicholson thinks that building a bridge that will redound to British glory for hundreds of years is more important than its effect on the war. Furthermore, when he realizes that they are behind schedule, he violates the very code he fought for, and gets the officers to work alongside the enlisted men. He even asks men in the camp hospital to get out of their beds and pitch in.

In spite of himself, Shears ends up being the officer in charge of the mission, sacrificing himself in order to destroy the bridge, while Nicholson dies realizing the enormity of what he has done.
2015-01-06
Good film, but a travesty of history
I am normally an admirer of David Lean. But it is difficult to understand why he chose to base this film on a real event at the River Kwai, as it grossly misrepresents the real "Colonel Nicholson" and caused considerable distress to both him and the River Kwai veterans.

The Colonel Nicholson character is based on the allied camp commander, Lieutenant Colonel Philip Toosey, who was a remarkable officer by any standards.

Awarded the DSO for heroism during the defence of Singapore, he refused an order to join the evacuation so he could remain with his men during captivity. In the hellish conditions of the camp, he worked courageously to ensure that as many of his men as possible would survive. He endured regular beatings when he complained of ill-treatment of prisoners, but as a skilled negotiator he was able to win many concessions from the Japanese by convincing them that this would speed the completion of the work. Behind their backs, however, he did everything possible to delay and sabotage the construction without endangering his men, and also helped organise a daring escape, at considerable cost to himself. For his conduct in the camp, he won the undying respect of his men.

After the war, he showed great generosity of spirit by saving the life of Colonel Saito, second in command at the camp and a relatively decent officer, when he spoke up for him at the war crimes tribunal. He worked for the veterans all his life, and became President of the National Federation of Far Eastern Prisoners of War.

He refused repeated requests by the veterans to speak out against the film, being much too modest to seek any glory or recognition for himself. However you will find his achievements documented in a book by Professor Peter Davies entitled "The Man Behind the Bridge".

Toosey hoped that no one watching the film would believe a British Army officer could be so stupid in real life. But with the film being rated on this site as one of the top 50 movies of all time, this hope may have been misplaced. Enjoy the film by all means as a work of fiction, but it is surely important to set the record straight and recognise the heroism of the real man involved.
2002-06-29
oldie but goodie morality play
"The Bridge on the River Kwai" is well over half a century old. Both visuals and sound have been thoroughly restored, so that current electronic prints are quite nice.

It's a "war film" ...and it's also an "anti-war film" It's about individual characters more than the larger conflict. In both these regards it seems to me most similar to "Apocalypse Now" ...except ending with "Madness, Madness" rather than "The Horror, The Horror".

It's a ripping good yarn. Even though many individual moments and scenes seem "hokey" these days, somehow they all add up to something that will hold your attention for hours.

Although it's not an "epic", and although it's shot on standard 35mm film, there are already suggestions here of what we'd see in "Lawrence of Arabia". Even half a decade earlier, here David Lean showed that he was enamored of shooting on location, shooting huge vistas, and shooting in a very wide format.

I think one of the reasons the film still speaks to us is its considerable ambiguity. Did Nicholson fall accidentally on the plunger, or did he do it intentionally in a last cry of remorse? Did Saito intend the knife for a possible but unlikely ritual suicide, a certain ritual suicide, or to kill Nicholson once he'd fully served his purpose? Did Warden throw his weapon in a temporary fit of frustration, or as the first sign of a permanent decision to have nothing more to do with war? Did the women express revulsion at the deaths of men they were fond of, or at the realization of just how violent war was? ...and many more.

The film was adapted from a book, except with the ambiguity ramped up, a character added, and different subplots emphasized. The book in turn was _loosely_ based on some real events the French author had no first hand involvement in (and may have even wanted to portray the British in a poor light).

There are many things that one may accept in the moment, but that after a bit of reflection can't possibly be real: Temporary reassignment of a soldier to the army of a different country - A British medic running his own hospital with no supervision, having his own building, and making his own independent decisions about who could work and who could not - The Japanese not having sufficient engineering talent to design and build a permanent bridge - Prisoners often allowed to whistle a tune that was very derogatory to the Axis - Inmates in a Japanese prison camp appearing in good health, with good uniforms, and at normal weight - Inmates in a Japanese prison camp arranging their own entertainment ceremonies - Nicholson staying alive in an unventilated corrugated steel box in full sun in that torrid climate for many days - The Japanese commandant giving in to the British prisoner officer without any advance agreement on getting something in return - The very first detent between jailers and prisoners being in a lengthy joint meeting around a conference table, and with the prisoners controlling the agenda - A soldier with serious doubts about killing being selected as part of an elite commando unit - A sailor suddenly knowing how to handle a gun and how to be a commando - and more.

In fact there are so many such departures from reality I can't imagine how anyone could possibly think this film is in any way trying to pass itself off as portraying historical events. To me, it's very obviously more of an imagined morality play than a portrayal of actual events. Nevertheless there have been public questions about its historical accuracy right from the beginning. Despite its adaptation from a book, which was in turn loosely inspired by some poorly reported events, some of the characters in the film could be identified with real individuals. And some of those people were still alive. And some of them complained noisily.
2015-04-20
"The only important thing is how to live like a human being."
Few movies tell the story of war in such an unbiased way, only to show its dehumanizing effects. About midway through Bridge on the River Kwai, the viewer no longer is too interested in who will "win" the conflict (how do you do that anyway?—But that's for another conversation), but rather about the lengths these men have gone away from their beings. We see people who were driven to the brink of what one can survive, and not all of them did. A true test of the boundaries of the human spirit, Bridge on the River Kwai, directed by David Lean, took home Oscar's top prize in 1957.

Brash, yet civil Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) commander of a group of British soldiers captured as POW's by the Japanese military in the midst of WWII has a single vision in mind. Armed with the promise of the Geneva Convention, Nicolson is determined to lead his men with honor. Determined to conduct himself and his men with the honor betrothed to those that don the British uniform, Nicolson endures more than anyone thought he could survive to gain the respect of his captors. The Japanese eventually realize that Nicholson is a force to be reckoned with, and as much as they may wish to kill him, their hands are figuratively tied. Gaining respect, Nicholson eventually becomes an integral part of the Japanese plan to build a bridge over the river Kwai veiled as a useful wartime measure that actually only serves as a monument to Japanese commanding officer Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa). Although his men don't want to do the work that glorifies the Japanese, Nicholson ensures them that completion of the bridge will actually serve as a testament to the will and honorability of the British. Construction goes on, with the help of the British, all the while allies have hatched a plan to burn the bridge down, led by escaped American prisoner Shears (William Holden). The two plots work together to form one cohesive story of men afflicted with battle and the concessions that some won't even allow themselves to make in a time of war.

This film shows Alec Guinness at his best, a raw look at a man in the heart of battle that refuses to leave his morals behind. He excels as a man leading his men with the dignity each deserves as a human being. William Holden is also a standout in this picture. Holden plays the role of the disillusioned prisoner who has given up hope with ease, coming off both believable and lovable. The cinematography of this film was a thing of beauty. In scenes with hundreds of men marching, the audience is graced with seeing the vast landscape that is so grand it appears to completely encompass the men. There were also incredible shots through binoculars that show, in part, the directorial genius of David Lean. The acting and technical elements came together to create a strong film that explores the depth of the human spirit.

It is sometimes difficult to watch a movie with no clear hero. Everyone comes off a little crazy in this film; which perhaps, may explain why the final lines in this film were "the madness, the madness". I don't want a cookie-cutter movie by any means, but I also don't want to travel half way through an almost three-hour film rooting for someone, only to realize he's a bit off his rocker. I suppose, however, that is what happens when you have a movie like Bridge on the River Kwai, with such heavy themes as honor, strength, and valor. Technically, I understand why this film took home Oscar's top prize; the acting and writing allows one to understand this as well. I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoys war films, of course, even though this one is quite different from the standard. Also, I would recommend Bridge on the River Kwai to anyone who needs reassurance that the human spirit can overcome even the darkest of evils.
2016-02-03
Greatly entertaining film, but ignore everything it tries to tell you
This film is a great piece of fiction, and it will no doubt entertain most people who see it. However, it could not be more historically incorrect and considering what these prisoners actually lived through, it is nothing short of a crime that their story has not been told to a general audience and they are left with this sad piece of fiction. If you can, find a few of the Australian, British, American soldiers that lived through this horrible, horrible experience and ask them what they thought of the film. Most will tell you that it spits on the memory of the soldiers that did not return. If you are really interested in this story, pick up a history book and leave this film alone. If you watch it, don't take it seriously and ignore everything it tries to tell you.

As a piece of entertainment: 8.5 / 10 As a piece of history: 2.0 / 10
2001-08-26
Slightly Underwhelming But A Memorable Piece Of Work Nonetheless
There's a lot to admire about The Bridge on the River Kwai. It's a grand production put together amazingly well by David Lean & benefits greatly from his composed direction, some wonderful performances as well as its expertly executed third act. Yet when compared to its near- unanimous praise, it turned out to be slightly underwhelming experience for me.

The story of The Bridge on the River Kwai is set in a Japanese prison camp during the Second World War where the newly arrived British prisoners of war are ordered to construct a railway bridge; a task which is later overseen by their senior officer after his conditions are accepted but he's completely oblivious of the allies' plan to destroy it.

Directed by David Lean, this is the second film of his that I've seen, first being Lawrence of Arabia & he really seems to have a knack when it comes to handling a huge cast. Production design work is breathtaking, camera-work is controlled, editing is what I've a problem with for the film felt overlong & its finely composed score has one really catchy piece.

Coming to the performances, the cast comprises of William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins & others, and their performances are very good. Holden chips in nicely & also brings along the much appreciated humour. Hawkins enters the film quite late yet leaves his mark in the end. But this is Guinness' show all the way plus there's one scene showing him walking from one place to another & the way he did it, it's a classic moment right there.

On an overall scale, it's not difficult to determine why The Bridge on the River Kwai is considered a memorable classic. It's enjoyable, entertaining & even rewarding but being a long film, it also requires a bit of patience. The final act is easily one of the best ones around for it is incredibly tense, ingeniously filmed & culminates the story on a stunning high. Even though the film didn't match my expectations, I've no hesitation in recommending it to anyone. Definitely worth a shot.
2015-01-18
Do yourself a favor...


Watch the REAL story of the Bridge on the River Kwai (it airs frequently on the History Channel) and listen to the accounts of the men who survived. THEN watch this piece of fiction before you comment on how it portrays the blah blah of war, and the madness of blah blah. BOTRK is fiction, nothing more. The fact that people have praised the film for its realism and frank depiction of war is a great dishonor to the people who were beaten, starved, tortured and even eaten in Japanese prison camps. Try to imagine, if you will, a film about Auschwitz where the concentration camp prisoners are all well fed, not a single walking skeleton in sight, as they whistle while they work. No mention of ovens, gas chambers or horrible 'medical' experiments. Pretty offensive, isn't it? Now try to imagine having lived through an ordeal such as that, and knowing that IMBD users have voted that film into the top 250. Anybody who feels they owe any debt of gratitude to the old men who gave their lives and minds for our freedom, please vote '1' for this film. Get it into the *other* top 150, right up there with Santa With Muscles and Manos, the Hands of Fate.
2002-01-07
Great war movie
I heard a film critic once say that there really aren't "war movies"; there are only "anti-war" movies. I'm still not sure what I think of that claim, but having seen - The Bridge on the River Kwai- enough times in the past several years, I think I'm persuaded that it's at least half right. -Kwai-, I believe, is both a "war" and "anti-war" movie, and, in my view, it succeeds admirably at both.

There is almost no element of -Kwai- that is not praise-worthy. David Lean's direction is tight and evocative. The cinematography is great (even though the color seems increasingly drained in film versions that I have seen). The acting is top-notch. I honestly believe that this is Alec Guiness's best performance, and Sessue Hayakawa is also highly sympathetic and believable. William Holden and Jack Hawkins round out the cast nicely.

The musical score is also right on. Simply put, -Kwai- is an excellently constructed film made by people who obviously cared a great deal about it. As a result, the viewer comes to care a great deal about it as well.

Clearly -Kwai- is an anti-war film. There is no glorification here. War is brutal, period. It's brutality is not captured here in terms of gory carnage or senseless battles. Instead, the psychological dimension of brutality comes across clearly. Yet, -Kwai- also shows the resilience of the human spirit as well as its complexity. One is left wondering if participation in World War II not only psychologically brutalized the characters played by Guiness, Hayakawa, and Holden but also if it simultaneously uplifted them. The paradox is striking to me each time I view this film. War can act both as a positive and negative catalyst, and it can do both of these things at the same instant.

So, is -The Bridge on the River Kwai- a war movie or an anti-war movie? I think Lean clearly preferred the latter, but the subject matter and his approach to it may have landed somewhere in between.

Regardless, -Kwai- is a fantastic film experience and is not to be missed. It is, simply put, my very favorite film--bar none.
2012-01-31
A classic war film
In Japanese prisoner of war camp in Burma a camp a newly arrived group of British prisoners are told that they are to construct a bridge over the River Kwai. Their CO, Lt Col Nicholson, informs the camp commandant, Colonel Saito, that as per the Geneva Convention he and his officers will not work. Saito orders the officers placed in a punishment cell while Nicholson is put in an iron 'hot box'. While they are being punished the man work on the bridge but progress is very slow. There is also an escape attempt by American prisoner Commander Shears and two British prisoners; the latter are shot and killed and it looks as though Shears is dead too after being shot at and falling into the river. As the progress of the bridge falls further and further behind schedule Saito talks to Nicholson; the latter tells him that his men would do a better job if led by their own officers… soon he has effectively taken over the project; moving the bridge to a better location, coming up with a better design and the moral of the men is improving… but in the process is he guilty of helping the enemy.

Shears survives the fall into the river, and with the help of local villagers recovers and is eventually rescued and taken to a hospital in Ceylon. Here he is recruited, somewhat against his will, by Major Warden who is planning to lead a small group into the jungle to destroy the bridge.

This film is rightly considered a classic; its cast doing a great job telling an interesting story. Alec Guinness is on top form as Col Nicholson as he gradually changes from an officer who bravely stands up to his captors to somebody who could be considered to be aiding the enemy; his motives are the moral and wellbeing of his men but as completion of the bridge nears he is clearly proud of the work they have done. William Holden impresses as Shears, a character who provides some of the films few lighter moments. Jack Hawkins is also on good form as Major Warden.

This can be considered a film of two halves; the first concerning what is going on in the camp with Nicolson risking all to stand up to the Japanese and the second which largely follows the planning and execution of the raid against the bridge with occasional returns to the camp where we see Nicholson accidentally slipping into collaboration. There are of course some problems; most notably the character of Nicholson; it is unlikely that a senior British officer would have behaved the way he did… the officer he is loosely based on certainly didn't. This isn't an action packed film but it is certainly tense and never boring. What action there is, is impressive. Overall I'd definitely recommend this classic film… I'd also recommend reading a little about the actual events which inspired this work of fiction.
2017-03-22
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