Movie Review – The Bridge on the River Kwai
Director: David Lean
Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins
I’m a huge fan of The Great Escape, one of the best WWII movies ever made. Nothing illustrates the pointlessness of war better than a prison camp, a physical example of contradiction. I was excited to watch The Bridge of the River Kwai, another true story/World War/prison camp film. From the beginning I was surprised at the similarity between the two movies. And I was doubly surprised when I learned that Kwai had been made first, defining a genre and earning a spot in film history.
The story is one of duty, honor, patriotism, and how war makes these fine qualities absurd. British and American POWs are grouped together in a virtually unguarded Japanese prison camp deep in the jungles of southeast Asia. Escape is not really an option, as there is nowhere to go, and the soldiers attempt to keep some semblance of order in a chaotic place. When they are ordered by their captors to build a railway bridge over a nearby river, they are torn between many desires; to follow the Geneva Convention code of conduct, to wreak havoc behind enemy lines in whatever way possible, and to build something that they can be proud of, no matter the outcome of the war.
To say this is a good movie would be an understatement. The acting is among the best that you will find, even when compared to modern standards; Guinness, who would later become Obi-Wan Kenobi, and his Japanese commander counterpart were near perfect in their dialogues, portraying real humanity in an inhuman situation. Timely humor and a beautiful locale polished the film off. But it was the moral, the point, the depth of the story that really hit hard. In such a complicated and ridiculous situation, the justification for war comes under the microscope, as we realize that each soldier and each officer is no more than a mere human attempting to live with some dignity. An amazing film with an amazing core, The Bridge on the River Kwai is one that can’t be missed.
My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰