Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Bridge on the River Kwai - Movie Review

Once again goes to prove that great movies, great stories suck you in. All I needed to do was watch one scene and I ended up watching the whole movie. 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' has childhood memories and I wondered how differently I watched movies then and how I view them now. Then, all I remembered was some war scenes and the bridge being blown up. Now I can see all the nuances of human drama and human conflict at all levels.

Colonel Saito of the Japanese army commands British prisoners of war to work on the building of a bridge irrespective of rank. Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson of the British army cites the Geneva convention and refuses to work despite the harshest punishment. Realising that the bridge will never be made if the Colonel does not have his way Colonel Saito agrees to his terms much against his wishes (he breaks down in private at his surrender to his own prisoners). The Britisher then embarks on building the best bridge possible (instead of the worst bridge as one would think) to keep the morale of his troops up and also to show what they are capable of. So involved does he get that he forgets whose side he is on and actually stops the team of British and American soldiers who have been sent to blow up the bridge, killing all of them except one. In a moment of realisation when he understands what he has done Colonel Nicholson finds himself shot and falls on the contraption that blows up the bridge.

It's not a real story like I thought it was. The screenwriters Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson were blacklisted by Hollywood so they wrote it in secret and when it won an Academy Award, Pierre Boulle (a French novelist who did not speak English) and who was the novelist of the book on which the film was made, received the award. Years later both Foreman and Wilson received the award posthumously.

America has its share of rotten secrets like the blacklisting of writers. Anyway, enough drama within and without. Alec Guinness as Colonel Nicholson, William Holden as Commander Shears are perfect.

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