The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

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I started watching 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' at around 11 pm last night (the third film of that night). I had initially thought to only watch the first hour and finish it the next morning, this however did not go as planned. By the time the closing credits came I was wide awake, my blanket thrown to the side, sitting there stunned by the film I had just experienced.

The Bridge to the River Kwai is a unique film in the way it outlines the madness of war through the eyes of officers. Witnessed through the eyes of two juxtaposing characters, one the British prisoner and the other the Japanese captor, the audience is thrust into a strange world where principle trumps survival and pride trumps judgment.

Alec Guinness plays the British Colonel Nicholson, a role that awarded him an oscar, and Sessue Hayakawa, Hollywood's Japanese star plays the desperate Japanese Colonel Saito. Both oppositional colonels struggle against one another in a 'battle of wills' to achieve superiority over the other. The Japanese need the British to build the bridge, but the British will not build it without following the rules all prisoners and captors of prisoners in war must follow. The film is centred around the back and forth toil between both Colonels, yet along with mind games comes the physical and daring adventures of a lone American soldier. William Holden or Officer Shears, escapes the POW camp only to be brought back on the mission that causes one of the most shocking moments in cinema history.

It seems strange to call the film a war movie, for the main focus is of the impacts of principle and pride on a character. The Second World War only acts as the setting of the narrative, rather than a dominant theme. The film is completely unbiased in its depiction of either side only that they stand as opposites, yet they need to work together to achieve their shared objective. David Lean's masterclass in direction is witnessed to its extent in 'The Bridge on the River Kwai', he reveals the epic genius that he would reproduce once again in his masterpiece 'Lawrence of Arabia' five years later.

The final scene left me stunned at the senselessness of war and the insanity of pride. It is one of the best war films that I have seen and a must watch for any lover of war films or films in general. Lean is able to provide the audience with that faint feeling of profound emotion, almost stunned satisfaction, that one feels when watching a great movie. The feeling lingers for days after witnessing it. The final words "Madness, madness madness" seemed to echo in my dark room as the closing credits played.
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