William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, James Donald, Geoffrey Horne, André Morell, Peter Williams, John Boxer, Percy Herbert, Harold Goodwin
After settling his differences with Japanese POW camp commander Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), British colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) cooperates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors, oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.
I start by saying I've seen this film only once, yesterday, and my opinion might change on a second view, but I don't think this movie is as flawless as people say. Hard to believe but even though a lot of people complain about its historical inaccuracy, this is not what I disliked about the film.
Indeed a great anti-war film, The Bridge on the River Kwai's weaknesses are the way the story develops, and the slow pacing.
The film starts off well, showing how British prisoners of war were treated by Japanese - even though I don't think they were that friendly and solidary. It is quite brave I'll give it that, especially for its time. But then, it becomes a battle of wills between a Japanese commander and a British captive colonel, and the war vanishes to make room for pride. After becoming almost soporific, and dragging out everything, the film comes back to life with the William Holden side plot, that raises the interest and provides some relief. Ultimately, however, the film stumbles again with an overlong jungle crossing.
However, the film is an excellent critique of war, and instead of turning people, especially commander Saito and colonel Nicholson, into villains, the film does make a powerful statement on the madness of war. That's it, madness, not horrors, or monsters, just madness.
Alec Guinness delivers a tremendously powerful performance as Nicholson, and helps us to understand his character's motivation. Sessue Hayakawa gives a brilliant performance as Saito but he is overshadowed by Guinness. William Holden does a good job but frankly he pales when compared to the others.
Major Clipton: Madness! Madness!