A rousing war tale based loosely on the novel by Pierre Boule, The Bridge on the River Kwai has vaguely uncomfortable undercurrents.
The historical setting of the construction of the Burma Railway may be based on facts, but the narrative of events and personnel is purely fiction. Enforced slave labour by the Japanese of POWs and locals and their inhumane treatment are well documented. But made just 12 years after the end of the war, director David Lean’s epic feature skirts over the starvation, sickness and deaths. Instead, we find Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness – The Lavendar Hill Mob, Star Wars), the British commander, feeling obliged to work with the Japanese commander, Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa – Tokyo Joe, The Cheat), in the construction of the bridge to protect his men. This goes against British High Command as, following American Navy Commander Shears’ (William Holden – Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17) escape, the destruction of the bridge becomes a high priority.
Regarded as one of the finest war films of all time, The Bridge on the River Kwai is a gripping adventure tale of male bonding and peacockery (the scenes with Ann Sears as the Nurse were added at the insistence of the Studio). Full of strife in the making, the tension is palpable.
Nominated for 8 Oscars in 1958 including best supporting actor (Hayakawa), won 7 including best film, director, actor (Guinness), adapted screenplay, cinematography.