Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957)

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), directed by David Lean.

Deliberately paced without being sluggish. The setup is a contest of wills, with Alec Guinness excellent as the prissy British commander who won't break. William Holden is the usual American cynic who makes a daring escape and is then dragooned into returning with a very keen commando outfit. The climax is a tense contest between those trying to blow up the bridge and those defending it, the latter now including the commander who has gone off the rails a bit.

The Doctor, Major Clipton, provides an audience point of view during much of the film. He's the only one who seems to think it strange that the Colonel is contributing so much to the Japanese war effort. Actor James Donald deserves mention for a trio of great POW films: he was also in King Rat (1965) and The Great Escape (1963).

Bad as conditions are shown here, in reality they were much worse. See King Rat (1965) for another, grittier view. The authors of both books were POWs. For presentations of what Japanese soldiers faced at the end of the war, try The Burmese Harp (1956) and Fires on the Plain (1959)

Filmed in Sri Lanka. The bridge was life sized and they really blew it up.

Available on Blu-ray with a rather good image in many segments. The greens are not the vivid tropical color we are used to today, but seem typical of color films of that era. The aspect ratio is 2.55:1.