This is a notable, enthralling and critically-acclaimed movie (it won 7 Oscars' and 3 BAFTAs, including the 'main' Film/Director categories) with extensive production-values, a big cast (with many famous actors in lead roles, it was only Alec Guinness that won the awards...) and very good effects to portray the final scenes involving 'that' bridge..
I got this on Blu-ray despite already owning it's 'Special' 2-disc DVD Edition, as whilst the DVD version had clearly been given some good treatment (it is to my eyes free of those annoying little white specks/scratches) with an excellent set of extras, this HD offering released some 10 years later features a '4K restoration'.
So, whilst this Blu-ray didn't offer much more in the extras department (and actually also removes some !) it had the credentials of looking and perhaps sounding, courtesy of an accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, even better than the DVD which was already quite good.
Well, after watching it for the umpteenth time, this time on Blu-ray I can categorically confirm that it DOES offer noticeable improvements in the viewing experience. The restoration has dealt with what could viably be 'fixed' from what was apparently quite a 'problematic' production and resulting 'flawed' film footage....
Directed by the legendary David Lean, this is my favourite film of his and, along with 'The Cruel Sea' features my favourite performances by the actor I feel is most prominent/significant in the film - Jack Hawkins. He, along with Alec Guinness and William Holden get joint top-billing but I feel that Hawkins pips both of them in the performance stakes.
Guinness won the awards and Holden is similarly proficient, with his part/presence leaving me of the opinion it was 'necessary' to gain production/finance from US studios - his character and actions always remind me of the similarly 'misplaced' aspects to the 'Hilts' character, an almost solitary US personality in another great WWII film 'The Great Escape'....
I will leave the finer arguments often held amongst others about the faithfulness/'dilution' of the story and depiction to the real-life situations suffered by many of our countrymen in WWII under Japanese 'rule', but what is inescapable about the film are the superb production-values, the attention to detail in certain acts and the unusual level of humour that exists through the majority of the running time.
The major plot aspect is the determination to maintain military discipline in adversity, but a lot of the finer details might be missed as they are again of a military 'nature' but not by me (I served in HM Forces for 18 years), with a snippet of a scene at the commando training camp covering all those 'finer' aspects with firstly a comedic big arrow sign directing 'guests' to the abode of Shears, the attention paid to a departing 'guest', the hilarious way a PT instructor has to be selective with his admonishment of those duly distracted from the task in hand and then the delightful touch of the Jack Hawkins character having to perform a 'change step' action, to regain synchronisation with his Colonel after resuming their walk.
Finally, this was until recently the ONLY film I've seen where the act of looking though binoculars was correctly depicted (ie a single circular view, NOT 2 adjoining circles....) until I recently saw 'Iron Man 3' - kudos Shane Black !
Contrary to some other reviews I've subsequently read, I never detected any print damage on the SE DVD so this Blu-ray already had one less thing to improve compared to similarly aged films.
For me, where this Blu-ray improves things is with solely the picture, it is often much lighter and consistently much sharper. The only 'flaw' with the DVD picture I ever noticed were regular frame 'wobbles', with the appearance of a ripple passing across the picture. I compared and all those I knew that existed on the DVD are absent on the Blu-ray.
I never felt that the musical soundtrack to this film was THAT dominant, there are only a few periods of forceful music and little else of great 'activity' note occurring. So, it is perhaps unsurprising that I couldn't really detect any great difference between the DD5.1 DVD soundtrack and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 version on the Blu-ray. Both sound as good as each other, with neither particularly excelling when compared to films like 'The Battle of Britain' for example - in fact, both are crisp/clear but really quite 'flat' and certainly lacking any obvious spatial qualities, with all the audio being essentially 'front and centre'....
With this film being quite long and with Blu-ray being high-capacity, the rather ugly layer-change that occurs on the DVD is gone. New extras are a "Crossing the Bridge" picture-in-picture track, "The Steve Allen Show with William Holden and Alec Guinness" featurette and "The Bridge on the River Kwai Premiere" narrated by William Holden. However, some extras from the SE DVD are absent: the Isolated Music Score option and the Cast and Crew Biographies....
The Blu-ray also has no equivalent of the quite substantial booklet which came with the SE DVD, a poor replacement is the unusual inclusion of some interior box artwork - I've attached a photo of it.
So, for me this film has a print quality which improves on the SE DVD by being a lot sharper and providing better contrast, plus previous image 'wobbles' have been removed. The sound quality was not noticeably better, so it's still a bit 'flat'. However, for an excellent film like this which had notable visual aspects the more important matters are the ones which have been improved to great effect. A few of the SE DVD extras are 'missing' but some new ones are added.