Thursday, 12 January 2012

Bridge on the River Kwai Review

It had been a while since I had seen this and when I saw that Galaxy was showing it for $5, I thought I should give it another go.  But I forgot a couple of things.  First, I had forgotten that it is basically two movies.  The first half is Alec Guinness being a belligerent and stubborn officer and actually putting his men at risk.  If I had been in the military I would actually have resented him for refusing to do manual labour beside his men.  But that's just me.

Second, once he wins that battle (and you know he will so that's not a spoiler - also, the movie is 55 years old so I'm pretty sure the statute of limitations has run out), the real plot begins.  Guinness and his men take pride in building a bridge and William Holden is on a mission to return to the camp he was a prisoner in to blow it up.

This is a different kind of war movie.  In fact, it isn't even really a war movie as much as it is a movie that is set with war as a background.  There is not a lot of action and it's more of a morality play.  They cover a lot of questions about doing what's right in the face of adversity and what happens when you lose sight of what is right in favour of your own selfish ambitions.  In that regard, it is a very good film.  Guinness plays his role very well as does Sessue Hayakawa as Colonel Saito.  You can really see his descent into becoming a broken shell of a man even as his task is getting done.  It's a quite well done juxtaposition.  Given the era that it was made in, the technical aspects are decent.  Through the whole 2.5+ hours, you do get a sense of realism that is often lost on the older movies.  The only real beef I have is that a lot of the scenes go on too long like the walking through the jungle, setting the charges, etc.  The pace slows right down and I tended to lose focus.  But that's how things were done in Hollywood back then.  Other than that, it's an excellent film.

If you want a war movie, watch something else.  But if you want a more human experience with some excellent acting (especially for the era), see it.