Saturday, February 11, 2017

Movie Review: "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957)

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Movie"The Bridge on the River Kwai"
Year Nominated: 1958
Director: David Lean
Rating: PG
Running Time: 2 hours, 41 minutes
Did It Win?: Yes.

British soldiers at a Japanese POW camp during WWII are forced to build a bridge over the river Kwai in China. The British commanding officer at the camp starts to take pride in the bridge. Little do the soldiers know, the British military is planning a mission to blow up the bridge he is so proud of. 

"The Bridge on the River Kwai" is directed by David Lean, who is also known for his films "Doctor Zhivago," "A Passage to India," and "Lawrence of Arabia." It is written by Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson and is based on the novel "La Pont de la Rivière Kwai" by Pierre Boulle. This film takes place at a Japanese POW camp in China. It is about the British soldiers who were forced by their Japanese captors to build a bridge over the river Kwai as labor punishment. Much of the film starts out as a battle of wills between British officer Colonel Nicholson, played by Alec Guinness, and Japanese Colonel Saito, played by Sessue Hayakawa, who runs the POW camp. Nichols refuses the notion that he and his officers should do any manual labor as its forbidden by international law, and Saito doesn't follow Nichols' law and sees him as a bad example for his men. There is a great dynamic in this battle between these two men, complete with suffering and heartache as one of the two men will have to break first, bending to the will and wits of the other. Saito wants to show that his word is law at the camp, but Nichols wants to show that his men follow his orders, even when they are imprisoned. The dynamic of relationship between these two officers also evolves throughout the course of the film as the two start to come to an agreement, and eventually, a small understanding. Nichols even starts to take pride in the bridge as a display of British engineering skills. The British government, however, isn't so keen on the bridge and wants to blow it up since it is still the thick of wartime.

There are a lot of intense moments in "The Bridge on the River Kwai," not only when it comes to the action scenes, but also the dramatic ones as well. Guinness and Hayakawa are brilliant in their respective roles, creating layered characters and delivering nuanced performances. Both men were nominated for Academy Awards, Guinness in the Lead category and Hayakawa in the supporting category, though only Guinness would take home an Oscar. The film itself received eight total nominations and took home a much deserved seven. This included a best director trophy for David Lean, and as you can see above, given his body of work, Lean's films became well acquainted with a little bit of Oscar gold.

As we go back and watch the movies that came before us, many truly stand the test of time. That is absolutely the case for "The Bridge on the River Kwai." We found this movie to be fantastic in every aspect, from its moving display of wits versus physical strength to its tremendous acting, and its compelling and interesting story.

Last Oscar season, we were watching: "Lawrence of Arabia"

Two Oscar seasons ago, we were watching: "The Grapes of Wrath"

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