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4.7 out of 5 stars215
4.7 out of 5 stars
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"Take a good look, Clifton. One day the war will be over. And I hope that the people who use this bridge in years to come will remember how it was built and who built it - not a gang of slaves, but soldiers, British soldiers, Clifton, even in captivity."

Still one of David Lean's very best films despite its faults, unlike most of his epics, the plot of The Bridge on the River Kwai is focused enough to allow the film its debate on the nature of heroism and command without seeming forced, and is divided clearly into two halves. The first is a battle of wills between two madmen and their respective codes of honour; the British Colonel Nicholson, who seeks to turn defeat into victory, and the Japanese Colonel Saito, whose cruelty comes from his inability to see his lack of shame over their surrender.

Nicholson is so determined to use the building of the bridge as a weapon against his Japanese captors to rebuild his troops' morale that he is blind to the strategic consequences ("I hope these Japanese appreciate what we're doing for them." mutters Donald's medical officer). As Nicholson exceeds his requirements, he assumes Saito's role, even to the point of forcing officers and those on the sick list to work - the very points they had earlier clashed over - forcing the Japanese Colonel to face a surrender of his own. Ultimately reduced to the meek voice of acquiescence at one of their conferences, he alone achieves his objective but only at the cost of his self-respect. He alone realises what he has become.

The second half is more standard adventure fare, as anti-heroic escaped prisoner Holden (his casting clearly based on his similar role in Stalag 17) is press-ganged into returning to the bridge with gung-ho masochist Jack Hawkins to blow it up. If at the camp Donald is the voice of common sense, Holden is the voice of the common man. Faced with the wounded Hawkins' self-sacrificing heroics, he responds with a tirade against everything he stands for; ("With you it's one thing or the other, destroy the bridge or destroy yourself!"). But though he rejects the insanity of heroic codes and proclaims that the only true dignity lies in survival, he dies upholding just such an ideal. This is just one of the contradictions of an undeniably problematic ending, which opts for the spectacular at the cost of much of the substance of the film.

In reality, the bridge was never destroyed, but Lean discards history to give the audience the large explosion they've been waiting for. Depicted with intriguing ambiguity as to Guinness' motives, it nonetheless tends to obliterate the assertion of Pierre Boulle's novel that all the suffering has been in vain by allowing a victory, albeit at hideous cost. War is no longer a pointless and vainglorious farce played with human lives, but a place where even a cynic and an unwitting collaborator can redeem themselves through the nobility of self-sacrifice.

Yet if ultimately the film lacks the commitment of Bryan Forbes astonishly bleak King Rat or even Spielberg's dark Empire of the Sun, there is still much to admire, not least a quartet of great performances from Guinness and the under-appreciated Holden, Hawkins and Hayakawa. Lean is much more in control of his narrative than when he started making love stories with casts of thousands, his masterful use of the Scope frame coming over particularly well in this restored version (no new footage but a cleaned-up print) which finally gives blacklisted writers Michael Wilson and Carl Foreman their screen credits.

The Blu-ray restoration is a mixture of good and bad. The picture is certainly clearer and cleaner than any previous version, but the colour at times doesn't seem quite as rich and sweltering as it should be - the scenes of the prisoners standing on forced parade in the sun now seeming a little cold rather than humid. No complaints about the extras, however, which build on the previous DVD release, carrying over the documentary The Making of The Bridge on the River Kwai, featurettes An Appreciation by John Milius, Rise and Fall of a Jungle Giant and USC short film introduced by William Holden, ...On Seeing Film - Film and Literature and trailer (with both original and re-release versions here), and adding an extract from the Steve Allen Show with Holden and Guinness and a text track (though the isolated score from the DVD is now missing). The UK version has very bland packaging, but the initial run of the US edition, which is helpfully region-free, includes an attractive digi-book with stills and behind the scenes information and 12 reproduction lobby cards.
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on 16 June 2011
If further proof be needed that when it comes to Blu-ray, the old ones are the best ones, along comes this superb version of The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Occasionally in HD/Blu-ray forums I read ill-informed comments that such and such a film will look rubbish on Blu-ray because it 'pre-dates HD'. Well this one was released in 1957: see for yourselves. The fact is that film has a vastly high resolution to begin with, even greater than that of Blu-ray. As long as the original negative is in a pristine condition, it can't help but look better. Many older movies are given a new lease of life on the format and quite often - thanks to state-of-the-art restoration techniques - can sit proudly alongside the best of today's titles.

BotRK boasts a fine new transfer: "a 4K digital restoration from the original negative with newly remastered 5.1 audio" according to the sleeve notes. If the film does show its age to some degree, it's where the source elements don't quite match and look slightly grainier. This is certainly true of the opening few minutes but don't let that put you off. Once the PoWs have marched into camp, the picture is exemplary and is easily on a par with other highly regarded Blu-rays, such as Zulu or The Sound of Music. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack has been mixed with care: any effects are only sent to the surround channels when the scene justifies it and not for their own sake. Music for the most part is confined to the front stage and a crisp dialogue track is anchored to the centre, where it belongs.

As regards the film itself, it won seven Academy Awards and deservedly so. Alec Guinness' portrayal of the by-the-rules British colonel, who engages in a stubborn battle of wills and then elects to put his men's morale above the Allies' war objective, is one of the all-time great performances.

This is a movie that I came to quite late in life and upon first viewing, it held my attention completely from beginning to end. It's now arrived for a new generation to discover in the best way possible. You don't know how spoilt you are.
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on 2 September 2006
I can't name my favourite book - there are too many. But my favourite film has to be this. Principally I am attached to its depiction of Sri Lanka including waterfalls, rivers and a sense of jungle even if some of the film was filmed in pretend jungle in botanic gardens. I think this film is so incredibly well packaged and the script is so good and the visuals are stunning - that I can return to it again and again.

The criticism is that this film does not relate any reality. Those who want to know about the real Bridge can go to Thailand and do their own research.

This is principally an entertaining "war" film all about face, principles, the British Empire, life in the army with a not unsympathetic portrayal of the Japanese general who in reality would have represented a more brutal oppressor.

Everything about this film resonates with something you can connect with in daily life:

"Without rules commander there would be no civilisation"

"We're under the heel of a man who'll stop at nothing to get his way"

"As for me, I'm just a slave, a living slave"

"someone deserves a medal sir!"

Some excellent speeches and a panoramic look at Life and Sri Lanka, captured at a time a little more pristine than at present. Extraordinary climax at end with tremendous camera shots for a 50s film. Brilliant!
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This is a an exceptional film, which both entertains and moves you. There is little action -- everything is based on character on careful plotting -- although the action filled finale is blisteringly intense. The characters here are instantly likable. Even the awful Japanese general becomes less tyrannical, once you get to know what drives him and see that he is willing to work alongside the allies. It isn't historically accurate, but as a human story it works perfectly.

I found after watching this, that I questioned todays standards. Everything today is about epic special effects and artistic achievement. What happened to simple, humble, honest characters, the like of which are here in abundance? It sounds cheesy, but when they march into camp whistling the famous tune, you can't fail but to feel moved by the human spirit. The same when the troop start singing 'For he's a jolly good fellow' when their leader (superb Alec Guinness) is put into the box, for refusing to make his officers do manual labor.

All in all, I cannot recommend this enough. It isn't flashy or full of action, but is at least as good as anything today and the acting is of the highest standard. One disappointment, the extras mention an isolated score. I expected this to be something you could listen to, but it just means you have can only listen to the music when it happens in the film, so have to watch the film with some very large spaces of silence before any music starts again. It seems pretty pointless to me.

Apart from that minor quibble, I'd recommend this to anyone who can watch a film without special effects. As good a story, drama and war film as I've ever seen.
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The picture was presented with MPEG-4 AVC 080p 2.55:1 encode. Compared to the old DVD, the Blu-ray image is cleaner and very noticeably sharper throughout (the evidence is apparent right away in the opening credits which before were problematic), but more importantly, colour fidelity is now superb and image detail really impresses. Blacks are inky and skin tone was accurate. A modest amount of grain is present which imparts a film-like look to the image. (4.5/5)


The DTS-HD 5.1 MA is also wonderful. Dialogue is clear. The soundtrack by Malcolm Arnold, who won the Oscar for Best Music Score, is very rousing and uplifting. You can whistle along when the tune Colonel Bogey was played. (4/5)


Bridge On The River Kwai won 7 Academy Awards in 1957: Best Picture (producer: Sam Spiegel), Best Director (David Lean), Best Actor (Sir Alec Guiness), Best Cinematography (Jack Hildeyard), Best Film Editing (Peter Taylor), Best Music Score (Malcolm Arnold) and Best Screenplay (Pierre Boulle, Carl Forman, and Michael Wilson). It is of interest to note that Carl Forman and Michael Wilson were blacklisted at the time, and received no screen credit. They were posthumously awarded the Oscars in 1984. Pierre Boulle was not present at the awards ceremony, and Kim Novak accepted the award on his behalf. This was the breakthrough movie for Sir David Lean. Apparently, he was flat broke at the time the movie was made. He had to ask for an advance in order to fix his teeth!


Sony has packaged its Blu-ray release in a thick digibook format with the Blu-ray disc inside the front cover and an updated DVD version inside the back cover. The book is encased in a solid slip-case that gives a professional look to the enterprise. The 32-page digibook focuses on production information and publicity material reproductions, mainly culled from the original 1957 souvenir book. A nice set of 12 lobby card reproductions is also included in a pocket at the end of the book.


For a film 53 years old, the video and audio were properly restored. With all the additional goodies stated above in this Collector's Edition, the price was very reasonable. On Blu-ray, all of its glories are intact, and is highly recommended.
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on 27 September 2015
One of my all time favourites, alongside 'Three Men and a Baby' and 'Universal Solider 2.' This film has it all, from an all-star cast to memorable locations.

Famously shot in Peru, where temperatures soared to over fifty degrees during filming. Half of the original crew were replaced mid-way through the shoot after suffering heat exhaustion. Only the stalwart Alec Guinness soldiered on every day and endured the full intensity of the eighteen month film shoot. Rumour has it, kindly Alec would fetch the film crew water from a nearby ravine each morning, where he would trudge twelve miles across rocky terrain armed with just a sturdy pair of shorts and a tin bucket. Guinness was also on hand to offer medical assistance when twelve cameramen all went down with cholera - a disease brought on by drinking poorly sanitised water.

The film follows the adventures of an English army, led by Guinness. They have set up camp in Peru where they have instructions from the British government to build a two foot bridge across a narrow stream, so that cattle may pass safely. Guinness' stiff-upped lipped Colonel Water Blitherington is well-meaning enough, but his insistence on using only natural materials to build the bridge severely slows down the building process. On several attempts, the bridge collapses when it transpires cattle are not sufficiently supported on a bridge made only of leaves and small twigs.

The moment when Guinness is relieved of his command by Lieutenant Horatio Viper (Oliver Reed) is a heartbreaking and tenderly played scene. Some light relief is found in the infamous tune that is whistled by all the troops as they work. Those with a keen ear will note the tune was later used as the main theme for the game show Wheel of Fortune.

Overall, a rewarding and touching film that provides another angle on the Vietnam war.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 September 2005
Directed by David Lean, this film focuses on an attempt by a team led by Major Warden (Jack Hawkins) to destroy a strategically important bridge over the Kwai river in Burma in 1943, a bridge built by British prisoners during World War II. An epic in every possible sense, the inhumanities of the Japanese are probably underplayed somewhat so that we can focus on two essential conflicts of will, one between Japanese Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) and British Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) and the other between Warden and Shears (William Holden) who is forced to join Warden's team and thereby avoid a court martial for impersonating a U.S. naval officer. It should also be noted that Nicholson struggles with a conflict between his obligations as a British officer (i.e. to resist his enemy in any and every possible way) and his determination to demonstrate British superiority over the Japanese captors. Colonel Saito has his own conflicts, notably between imposing his will on Nicholson and the British troops and getting the bridge built. At the heart of this magnificent film are several moral dilemmas which help to explain why we become so emotionally involved with its narrative.
One of the many pleasures of seeing this film (especially in its DVD format) is the juxtaposition of lush tropical settings with the raw emotions of those who are building the bridge and those who are determined to destroy it. I am also struck by how carefully Lean develops the semi-adversarial relationships between Nicholson and Saito and between Warden and Shears. Although "Madness... Madness" is frequently quoted as an evaluation of those relationships, I disagree. Saito has been ordered to built the bridge, Nicholson agrees to accomplish that task but on his terms, Warden has been assigned to destroy it, and Shears (who considers all this "madness" but plays a key role in achieving that objective) lacks the circumspection which Lean enables us to have. Of course, war itself is madness...and yet there is (or at least can be) a redeeming if misguided integrity in how adversaries conduct themselves amidst that madness.
The excellence of this film was acknowledged by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, receiving in 1957 seven Oscars for  Best Actor (Guinness). Best Adapted Screenplay (Pierre Boulle), Best Cinematography (Jack Hildyard), Best Director (Lean), Best Editing (Peter Taylor), and Best Score (Malcolm Arnold). Years later, it was ranked #13 among "America's Greatest Movies" by the American Film Institute. I consider it ludicrous that Gone With the Wind (#4) is ranked higher than The Bridge on the River Kwai by the AFI. For those with a sensitive palate, the former is junk food whereas the latter is gourmet cuisine.
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on 25 January 2005
I shan't bother describing the films themselves here, as you can find many good reviews elsewhere on Amazon. The box set is reasonably well put together, although the hinging of the plastic trays that contain the discs looks a bit flimsy (held together by Sellotape?). The discs and booklets for each film are taken directly from the Columbia Tri-Star releases of the fims available individually. However you only get disc 1 from the "Bridge on the River Kwai" two-disc set released in 2000. You lose some of the "making-of" documentaries, interviews and picture galleries ... but you get the film, which is the important thing!
The "Bridge on the River Kwai" is a remastered version with a remixed Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. I found the stereo separation too wide for my tastes and would have liked the option of the original mono soundtrack (artefacts and all). Picture quality is fair, although there are some scratches and hairs during the opening credits as well as the occasional jump during the film.
"From Here to Eternity" has the original mono soundtrack (I believe a Superbit Dolby 5.1 version is also available, but, really, what's the point?!). Note that this film is shot in black and white.
"The Guns Of Navarone" has surround sound and the picture quality is good.
In conclusion, if you're not bothered by the lack of extras, I would highly recommend this set. At the current prices you save 10 pounds compared with buying the films separately (16 vs. 26 pounds).
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 March 2014
Jolly spiffing film.
An absorbing study in obsession where any notion of right and wrong seems to be entirely predicated on subjective notions of duty, regardless of consequence. A remarkable eye opener.
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Must admit, I bought the 'collector's edition' a while back, a treasured possession indeed.
The film itself shows the dreadful conditions that prisoners had to tollerate in camps such as this.
It also tells of one man's determination not to for-go his principles despite the punishment directed at him. ( Colonel Nicholson )
He becomes determined to finish the task his men has been directed to do, however it becomes an obsession, it almost seemed that he forgotten who's side he's really on.
There is also a matter of a small team on the way to destroy the achievement the men of
the camp who had laboured at a grave cost to build.
The film has many great performances within, esspecially 'Alec Guinness's portrayel of the colonel.
the restoration in both picture quality and sound is really pretty good for the '1957' classic, wish all film companies done the same.....................great film.............a must see
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