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THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI

Director: DAVID LEAN

U.K. • 1957 • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY STEREO SR • 161 MIN


‘I can’t understand it,’ says Warden (Jack Hawkins), surveying the bridge that he and his expeditionary force have been assigned to destroy, ‘it’s such a solid, well-designed job.’ unbeknown to him, it has been built not by the Japanese but by British prisoners-of-war under the command of Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness), who sees it as a monument to British morale—and to himself. Yet, as the Army doctor (James Donald) reminds him, might it not also be construed as collaborating with the enemy?
If ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ remains amongst the greatest war movies, it is not because of its supposed anti-war message but because of the audacity of its characterisation and its originality of tone. It anticipates ‘Dr Strangelove’ (Stanley Kubrick was a great admirer of David Lean) in its combination of suspense and satire on the theme of military madness. In an outstanding cast, Alec Guinness’ performance as Nicholson is extraordinary: rarely have a character’s delusions of grandeur seemed so grand, so deluded.—Neil Sinyard.

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