There’s no question that Bridge on the River Kwai was an amazing movie (1958). Seven Academy Awards (best picture, director, male actor, original music, screenplay adaptation, cinematography, film editing), 3 Golden Globes (best picture, director, actor), 4 BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Awards) also for best actor, film, British film, and screenplay, plus the David di Donatelli Award (Rome) for best foreign film, and various awards from other organizations including best supporting actor and best cinematography. I’m not sure where that stands against other films before and since, but it’s certainly an impressive list of awards. Sir Alec Guinness gives a masterly performance as the single-minded, principled British colonel and Sessue Hayakawa‘s supporting role as the Japanese Colonel Saito was also inspired as the two butted heads over the Geneva convention. (Someone could make an interesting comparison between BRK and Unbroken (2014) which also takes place in Japanese POW camps and centers around a power struggle.)
I bought BRK many years ago (it’s in video format) and hadn’t seen it in a long time but chose it to watch while riding my indoor bike; I ended up biking much longer than usual because I didn’t want to stop watching the movie. The scene where Col. Nicholson (Guinness) is brought out of the “oven” to take part in a conciliatory dinner with Col. Saito is very intense and the failure to end the standoff only protracts the suspense while Nicholson is returned to the oven.
Wm. Holden‘s role as the American naval officer who escapes only to eventually return, inserts some levelling cynicism/realism to the story and David Lean’s direction is truly inspired from the opening with the sweeping flight of a single hawk in a clear sky to the end where despite all the violence and carnage, that single hawk is still flying in the sky, seemingly questioning what, if anything, has been achieved.
The screenplay is based on Pierre Boulle‘s novel of the same name (1954) about the real Lt.-Colonel Philip Toosey who was actually in charge of the Allied prisoners during the building of the bridge. It loosely resembles the true story (learn more here — but don’t read the whole detailed summary given of the plot, watch the movie). A more recent book (1991) written by Peter Davies entitled Man Behind the Bridge: Colonel Toosey and the River Kwai sounds like a rather interesting read and is available from Amazon and other fine book sellers.