Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

War Movie #1 (Please click the links to read my reviews from 2011, 2013, and 2014). 

Synopsis: Batshit British bureaucrat believes bunkum, benefits Bushido bullies, builds bigger, better bridge. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Set in an Asian prisoner of war camp during World War II, this riveting classic combines a psychological battle of wills with high-powered military action.” 

What Did I Learn?: If you’re an enlisted soldier, impersonating a dead officer is your ticket to respect and attractive women. Oh wait, I already learned that from watching Mad Men

Really?: 1) I realize Nicholson (Alec Guinness) is  initially a hero to his men for standing up to the Japanese, but come on – his cause is simply to exempt British officers from manual labour. Wouldn’t that rub some of these guys the wrong way? Moreover, I had a bit of a hard time believing everyone would go along with his new orders, which come pretty close to outright collaboration with the enemy. I have a funny feeling a more realistic script would see Nicholson falling off a cliff, or meeting with a most unfortunate accident. 2) So, exactly how long is Nicholson actually in the hot box? I had a hard time believing he could survive more than a day or two, based upon his age and general fitness. 3) So, Saito backs off from machine-gunning the British officers because the sick prisoners threaten to serve as witnesses? Why wouldn’t he simply murder them, as well, or at least threaten to do so? And were Japanese prison camp commandants genuinely afraid of getting tried for war crimes in 1943? 

Rating: At 161 minutes, David Lean’s The Bridge on the River Kwai is a little too long for my taste, but it’s otherwise a masterpiece that richly deserved its seven Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing and Music-scoring. Guinness is magnificent as the well-meaning, but slightly loony Colonel Nicholson. I only wish Lean had included more than one scene of Guinness interacting with William Holden’s cynically-realistic Shears, but it would have been a very different movie. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

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