The MegaMilitary Project | Online Edition #405
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The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Epic war drama about British PoW building a bridge in Burma during WW II

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Inspired by the building of one of the railway bridges over the Mae Klong as part of the construction of the Burma railway in 1942 and 1943 and loosely based on the novel Le Pont de la Rivière Kwai by Pierre Boulle, the Bridge on the River Kwai is one of the great epic war movies about British prisoners of war that are ordered by their Japanese captors to build a bridge over the river.

In early 1943 British prisoners of war arrive at a Japanese prison camp in Burma where the commandant, Colonel Saito, orders all prisoners, including the officers, to work on the construction of a bridge over the River Kwai to complete the vital railroad linking Bangkok to Rangoon. The senior British officer Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson however refuses to let his officers perform manual labor as regulated in the Geneva Convention. Even though Saito, ruled by his Japanese upbringing and driven by the need to build the bridge and win the war, insists and uses torture and other measures to persuade the honorable, but arrogant Nicholson, who is a man of principles, the latter didn’t budge. The battle of wills only ends when Saito gives in without losing face.

In the meantime, the ordinary soldiers are doing a poor job at the bridge sabotaging the project wherever possible, so that it partly collapses. Shocked and ashamed of his fellow servicemen Nicholson takes over the construction of the bridge aiding the enemy. He is convinced that building a proper bridge will lift morale, will be a monument of British character and will show the British superiority beyond the war. He gets increasingly obsessed and works his men hard to complete the bridge on time.

Unknown to Nicholson the Allies have sent a team into the jungle to destroy the bridge.

The Bridge on the River Kwai was a box office hit and received numerous awards including Oscars for Best Picture (Sam Spiegel), Best Director (David Lean), Best Actor (Alec Guinness), Best Adapted Screenplay (Michael Wilson, Carl Foreman, Pierre Boulle), Best Music (Malcolm Arnold), Best Film Editing (Peter Taylor) and Best Cinematography (Jack Hildyard), Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, to name just a few.

Directed by:
  • Alec Guinness
  • Jack Hawkins
  • William Holden
WWII (1939-1945)
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