Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins
Director: David Lean
Running Time: 161 mins
The Bridge On The River Kwai is a British film about a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Thailand during World War Two, where a British officer stands up to the brutal camp controller to assert his and his country’s status, and ultimately takes on a huge engineering project to build a railway bridge across the river Kwai.
This is quite clearly one of the greatest films of all time. It’s got all the hallmarks of the classic war movies, but there’s also so much more. Thanks to brilliant performances, pristine directing and one of the most exciting stories of all time, there’s never a dull moment in this near-three hour long adventure, making for such an engrossing and entertaining watch.
One of the reasons that this film in particular stands out amongst the crowd of classic war movies is that it uses a fictional story to brilliant effect in order to create a more memorable experience. Of course, as a by-the-book history lesson, this isn’t the movie to turn to, but too many completely factually accurate films lack the energy and excitement that this shows off so well.
The story is split into two main acts, firstly the stand-off between the Japanese camp controller and the British officer, and then the actual building of the bridge as well as an exciting side plot that adds even more entertainment and adventure into the mix.
Throughout, there is always fun to be had here, whether it’s the action-packed and thrilling climax or the dramatic and intense opening stages in the uneasy setting of the POW camp, and that’s clear proof of why this has one of the best stories ever told in a film.
Away from the plot, the performances here are also incredible. Alec Guinness, as the experienced and stubborn British officer is the centrepiece of it all, and he is absolutely remarkable to watch. For three whole hours, you’re always wanting him to win, given his evidently extraordinary courage and principle, and even though he’s not actually the most sane and realistic man, he easily grabs you right from start to finish.
William Holden plays the customary American in this film, and he’s pretty good too. Although he doesn’t really show off his acting prowess to the extent that Guinness does, and as such doesn’t make you as excited every time he appears on screen, but is still a lot of fun to watch as one of the swashbuckling heroes of this adventure.
Finally, David Lean, director of other great classics such as Lawrence Of Arabia, does an astounding job here. Much like Lawrence Of Arabia, he makes the scope of the setting, in this case the Siamese jungle, so epic and absolutely awesome to witness, whilst also brilliantly orchestrating the more action-packed sequences to give full excitement and drama every time.
Overall, I’ll give The Bridge On The River Kwai an 8.9, because of its extraordinary entertainment and excitement factor, brilliant performances and characters, stunning direction and enthralling story.