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The Bridge on the River Kwai

8.22 h 41 min1957X-RayPG
When British P.O.W.s build a vital railway bridge in enemy occupied Burma, Allied commandos are assigned to destroy it in David Lean's epic World War II adventure The Bridge on the River Kwai. Spectacularly produced, The Bridge on the River Kwai captured the imagination of the public and won seven 1957 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Alec Guinness), and Best Director. Even i..
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Supporting actors
Sessue HayakawaJames DonaldGeoffrey Horne
Sam Spiegel
Columbia Pictures
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Prime Video (streaming online video)
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4.7 out of 5 stars

4066 global ratings

  1. 81% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 13% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 3% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 2% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United Kingdom

Fuficius FangoReviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 April 2021
2.0 out of 5 stars
Jingo for the masses
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Pierre Boulle wrote the "philosophical" novel Le Pont de la Riviere Kwai ca 1952. He later wrote Planet of the Apes and, later still (1988), Professor Mortimer, among others. Boulle was an engineer in the far East and spent 3 years in slavery to the Japanese. A regular theme of his is role reversal as a means of examining natures, e.g. Planet of the Apes (or for macabre humour in Professor Mortimer). Kwai is the embryo of that idea. The book's first sentence explains that there is no big difference between the Western psyche and the Eastern (25 years before Said's Orientalism). That is why Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness in the movie) takes over Saito's role. The Geneva convention forbids officers to do manual labour, and Nicholson is obsessive to the death about this, yet, when he has assumed Saito's role, he uses his own officers for manual labour to speed up the construction. He doesn't relent - he kills the Unit 316 operative: the bridge is unharmed. It is not an anti-war story as much as it is an anti-imperialism story.

Then we get the movie: - jingo for the masses, but pretending to be profound.

"Boulle said he wished he'd thought of the ending" says the commentator. Err, I suspect Boulle was being sarcastic! The ending is predictably banale. If Boulle had wanted the bridge destroyed, unit 316 would have destroyed it.

Brief summary of all the rubbish littering the film: -

The studio demanded American actors, they demanded women, they demanded "love interest". The first 40 minutes are incoherent. The entry of the British whistling Colonel Bogey is twee, embarrassing and silly - the idea was solely to stimulate patriotism. Unit 316 approach the camp via every skyline they possibly can (rather than hide in the jungle). They splishy-splash about in exotic pools with pretty Burmese girls on the way. They signify their presence by killing some Japanese soldiers, who aren't in the book, using machine guns and a grenade, stirring up a swarm of more than 1,000 flying foxes, another visual signal of their presence. The twice-referenced L-pill (lethal pill) is not in the book and not necessary. Nicholson repents (see book description); there's the ridiculous mortar attack and the oh-so-convenient accidental falling on the plunger; there's the trite futility-of-war ending. And the very ending with the helicopter and the unintegrated low-quality stock footage of big birds surveying the petty human scene is pretentious. The message is that all that loss of life is petty compared with nature, which isn't really the anti-war message that it wants to be - you can't be both human and inhuman! This is just Hollywood trying to appear more thoughtful than money-grubbing.
2 people found this helpful
Levent UzunogluReviewed in the United Kingdom on 22 July 2019
3.0 out of 5 stars
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The film is a classic,the picture quality on the 4k uhd blu ray is grainy,with muted colours and dim ,not worth the extra cash,stick with the much cheaper normal blu ray.
12 people found this helpful
Mr. Laurence WilliamsReviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 April 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Glorious and Enthralling WWII 'Classic' Gets a Significantly Restored Picture for HD Blu-ray
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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.
5 people found this helpful
king kongReviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 August 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
bridge on the river kwai a war film with a difference
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great vintage actors many sadly no longer with us in this film which is based on a true story of the trials and tribulations of prisoners of war working on the Burma railway.Because this is typically Hollywood fodder the cruelty and torture of prisoners of war is played down quite a bit.Despite the lack of the proper food and suitable clothing for the prisoners to wear they all look remarkably healthy within the confines of this hollywood production."Utter madness,utter madness" is the cry from one of the leading prisoner of war officers as the bridge is blown up during the latter stages of the movie and we couldn't agree more! a worthy bluray to add to your collection with a sterling cast and superb picture reproduction.
3 people found this helpful
stephen ParsonsReviewed in the United Kingdom on 08 September 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Stand for what you believe is right, even if that goes against you.
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I have always liked this film. British discipline from all angles. The officer taking the punishment for the men and not giving in. This gave the men under him purpose and respect when his position was restored. Another officer who had to follow orders which destroys the other officer and his mens hard work. Has the medical officer said Madness. Who is right , without discipline situations can get out of hand. Both had to accept the situation, NOT EASY but that is war.
4 people found this helpful
richuk8Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 13 January 2009
5.0 out of 5 stars
A flawless war flm.
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This is a an exceptional film, which both entertains and moves you. There is little action -- everything is based on character on careful plotting -- although the action filled finale is blisteringly intense. The characters here are instantly likable. Even the awful Japanese general becomes less tyrannical, once you get to know what drives him and see that he is willing to work alongside the allies. It isn't historically accurate, but as a human story it works perfectly.

I found after watching this, that I questioned todays standards. Everything today is about epic special effects and artistic achievement. What happened to simple, humble, honest characters, the like of which are here in abundance? It sounds cheesy, but when they march into camp whistling the famous tune, you can't fail but to feel moved by the human spirit. The same when the troop start singing 'For he's a jolly good fellow' when their leader (superb Alec Guinness) is put into the box, for refusing to make his officers do manual labor.

All in all, I cannot recommend this enough. It isn't flashy or full of action, but is at least as good as anything today and the acting is of the highest standard. One disappointment, the extras mention an isolated score. I expected this to be something you could listen to, but it just means you have can only listen to the music when it happens in the film, so have to watch the film with some very large spaces of silence before any music starts again. It seems pretty pointless to me.

Apart from that minor quibble, I'd recommend this to anyone who can watch a film without special effects. As good a story, drama and war film as I've ever seen.
15 people found this helpful
TiguanoReviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 August 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
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A real good classic of a well known Japanese Prisoner of War Camp in the Jungle during World War II. A very true story and well worth watching on this DVD. Whether or not you have seen it before, it is a film that you can not resist seeing yet again. Brilliant well known British actors and brilliant acting. A very gripping film from which you would not want to be distracted.
6 people found this helpful
ElleppiReviewed in the United Kingdom on 05 September 2015
4.0 out of 5 stars
Maybe Lean's most controversial and best mix of his early cinema and his latest attitude to blockbusters
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A strange and unbalanced blockbuster where rethoric, patriottism and its opposite live together and create a short cicuit between a mainstream approach to classic storytelling (big scenes, evil vs good, etc...) and all the unspoken aspects of war and "civilization", embodied by the ambiguity of Alec Guinness role. Maybe Lean's best "big film", where his sense of entertainment (the film is also funny and has a classic and reassuring dramatization) and the intimate and unresolved dramas of his early films meet almost perfectly and leave you with a sense of bitterness. Maybe his most controversial film on a very good blu ray
3 people found this helpful
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