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The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

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After settling his differences with a Japanese P.O.W. camp commander, a British Colonel co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors, while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.

Director:

David Lean

Writers:

Pierre Boulle (novel), Carl Foreman (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
3,225 ( 256)
Top Rated Movies #141 | Won 7 Oscars. Another 23 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
William Holden ... Shears
Alec Guinness ... Colonel Nicholson
Jack Hawkins ... Major Warden
Sessue Hayakawa ... Colonel Saito
James Donald ... Major Clipton
Geoffrey Horne ... Lieutenant Joyce
André Morell ... Colonel Green (as Andre Morell)
Peter Williams Peter Williams ... Captain Reeves
John Boxer John Boxer ... Major Hughes
Percy Herbert ... Grogan
Harold Goodwin ... Baker
Ann Sears ... Nurse
Heihachirô Ôkawa Heihachirô Ôkawa ... Captain Kanematsu (as Heihachirô 'Henry' Ôkawa)
Keiichirô Katsumoto Keiichirô Katsumoto ... Lieutenant Miura (as Keiichiro Katsumoto) (as K. Katsumoto)
M.R.B. Chakrabandhu M.R.B. Chakrabandhu ... Yai
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Storyline

This movie deals with the situation of British prisoners of war during World War II who are ordered to build a bridge to accommodate the Burma-Siam railway. Their instinct is to sabotage the bridge, but under the leadership of Colonel Nicholson, they are persuaded that the bridge should be constructed as a symbol of British morale, spirit, and dignity in adverse circumstances. At first, the prisoners admire Nicholson when he bravely endures torture rather than compromise his principles for the benefit of the Japanese Commandant Saito. He is an honorable, but arrogant man, who is slowly revealed to be a deluded, obsessive man. He convinces himself that the bridge is a monument to British character, but actually is a monument to himself, and his insistence on its construction becomes a subtle form of collaboration with the enemy. Unknown to him, the Allies have sent a mission into the jungle, led by Warden and an American, Shears, to blow up the bridge. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

It spans a whole new world of entertainment!

Genres:

Adventure | Drama | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for mild war violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English | Japanese | Thai

Release Date:

14 December 1957 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El puente sobre el río Kwai See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$44,908,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (1973 re-isssue 70 mm prints) (RCA Sound Recording)| Mono (35 mm prints) (RCA Sound Recording)| 4-Track Stereo (Linear PCM)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie's story was loosely based on a true World War II incident, and the real-life character of Lieutenant Colonel Philip Toosey. One of several Allied P.O.W.s, Toosey was in charge of his men from late 1942 through May 1943 when they were ordered to build two River Kwai bridges in Burma (one of steel, one of wood), to help move Japanese supplies and troops from Bangkok to Rangoon. In reality, the bridge took eight months to build (rather than two months), and they were used for two years. They were destroyed in an Allied bombing raid in late June of 1945. Toosey's memoirs were compiled into a 1991 book by Peter Davies, titled "The Man Behind the Bridge". See more »

Goofs

Baker is sent to sick bay with infected right foot but when Nicholson asks for volunteers for the bridge Baker then has an infected right arm instead. See more »

Quotes

Maj. Warden: You'll go on without me. That's an order. You're in command now, Shears.
Commander Shears: You make me sick with your heroics! There's a stench of death about you. You carry it in your pack like the plague. Explosives and L-pills - they go well together, don't they? And with you it's just one thing or the other: destroy a bridge or destroy yourself. This is just a game, this war! You and Colonel Nicholson, you're two of a kind, crazy with courage. For what? How to die like a gentleman, how to die by the rules - ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

And introducing Geoffrey Horne See more »

Alternate Versions

Various versions have different main credits. There is the original that gives screenplay credit to Pierre Boulle, there is the restored version in which previously blacklisted Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson are credited and there is the original version that was distributed to cinemas at the time still lacking in CinemaScope equipment in which the Cinema Scope credit is omitted and the credits formatted to fit the smaller frame. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Story of the Swimmer (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

Camp Concert Dance
(uncredited)
Written by Malcolm Arnold
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Far Ahead of Its Time
14 August 1998 | by SickfrogSee all my reviews

First off, what is so amazing about this film is that, for the time that it was made, how modern it looks. David Lean certainly had the eye of any modern director and managed to direct a visual masterpiece at a time when many films were still being shot in black and white.

William Holden gives one of his finest performances as a cynic of warfare , citing for us the insanity and absurdity that the combatants often convey. And he hates the war, but he cannot avoid been thrown back into it again and again. We wish he could stay on the beach with his nurse lover, but he is a man destined for a tragic doom for his country, whether he wants to or not.

Alec Guiness also delivers a fine performance as a bold general whose own pride is, at the same time, his most noble quality as well as his greatest fault. He is uncompromising, yet when the Japanese submit to his demands, he begins overseeing the construction of the bridge with great esteem. Eventually, for him, the bridge becomes a manifestation of his belief of the superiority of the British Army, which he follows like a religion. And in putting all his pride into this bridge, he loses sight of even the British's own true agenda. Truly, his sense of overwhelming honor is, at the same time, his downfall in a descent to a loss of morality, and a sense of good and evil.

And yes, by the end of this film, we learn a great lesson of the horrors of war. Not only does it take the lives of many good men, but the utter failure and despair that accompany it make it an unbearable existence. And this message has only recently been re-evaluated with the also-brilliant masterpiece "Saving Private Ryan." But, keep in mind that it took forty years to regain the power that this film inspired so long ago.


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