Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins
Director: David Lean
Another classic down! This one was actually pretty good, too! I enjoyed most of the movie, even though it clocked in at almost three hours! And I really wouldn't consider this a war movie. Sure the setting is WWII, but in reality, this is more of a straight up action and suspense film.
Alec Guinness plays Nicholson, a by-the-book, no-nonsense Colonel who's company gets captured by the Japanese. They are sent to a POW camp where they are forced to build a bridge over the river Kwai (betcha never saw that comin'!). And everyone is forced to work, including all the officers, but Nicholson maintains that, according to the Geneva Convention, officers that are POWs will not work. He stands his ground and is abruptly punished for this. There are a lot more plot details but suffice it to say - there's a lot going on in this movie. Which isn't a bad thing - it's a huge epic picture - so there's never a dull moment. Nicholson clashes with an Australian officer, Shears (William Holden) about what's right and what's wrong. Shears plans his escape and succeeds, despite Nicholson's warnings. They are brought back together in the climax of the movie - where shit hits the fan and nothing goes according to plan!
There's a lot going on in this movie and not just plot details. Colonel Nicholson is a bit of an enigma in my mind. Once he gets involved in overseeing the building of the bridge - he takes it upon himself and his crew of prisoners to build the damn finest bridge ever. His main argument for helping the enemy is that in the long run, the bridge they're building will last longer than the war and help future generations, not just the Japanese soldiers. It's actually quite comical, because once the general in charge of the prison camp gives in to Nicholson's steely resolve - he quickly becomes emasculated and seems to lose all of his power and menace. It's a great tables-have-turned moment, even though their official roles as prisoner and warden are still intact.
I mentioned briefly about Shears - he's reckless and the complete opposite of Nicholson. When he escapes, he thinks he's done with the war. But he's pulled back in and has to go back to the camp to destroy the bridge that Nicholson is working on. There's a great, climactic ending that is pretty fitting to all that has happened. This movie still holds up after time - there's still a lot of great discussions and arguments to be had over who's right and who's wrong in the movie. It not only fulfills the demands of a big action wartime epic movie, but also it delivers on raising questions about pride, prisoners of war, cowardice and much more. This movie is not to be missed!