Quality “Kwai”: “The Bridge on the River Kwai”

The Bridge on the River Kwai

The Bridge on the River Kwai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), by David Lean, is a film of elevations.  People move around on top of mountains, banks, bridges; and there are shots of the sky above treetops.  Natural (and manmade) grandeur is frequently close to where men are working and warring and suffering.

Lean has a perfect sense of this grandeur, while—-regrettably—his film is weak in characterization.  Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) and the soldier Shears (William Holden) seem like prototypes of something but not much more, and so they’re obscure.  However, it is fine for the picture to ask what is and what is not insanity in war, and to point out the insanity of helping the enemy: the Japanese army in WWII.

A British-American effort filmed in Ceylon, Bridge is Lean’s first epic.  It’s not necessarily one of his best movies, but it shares with his other works the benefit of unmistakable art.


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