Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Bridge on the River Kwai

I have now seen enough films (two) by David Lean to know that if you want a good but not amazing British war epic made in the middle of the twentieth century, he's your guy. Like the slightly-more-heralded Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge features strong work by Alec Guinness, soldiers of different nationalities setting aside their differences to achieve something, and won a ton of awards including Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. Guinness plays the commander of a British unit that surrendered to the Japanese during World War II, and is being forced to build a bridge in Thailand. Guinness initially rebukes Colonel Saito for ignoring the rules of the Geneva Convention, but after compromises are made takes on the job as a personal mission, placing his pride in the ingenuity and workmanship of British soldiers over the possibility of sabotaging their captors. He works harder towards the bridge's completion than even the Japanese do, and his award winning performance is an impressive and impassioned one.

William Holden plays the flip side of the coin, an American captive who wants no part of the project and attempts to escape. The interplay between the two men is the most interesting thing about the film, and their last encounter at the end is part of a truly outstanding climax that overshadows the rest of what I thought was a solid but less than amazing film. The performances are good and it's a pretty nice looking movie for the time, helped by being in full wide-screen color when a lot of movies were still black and white. It does a good job of taking you to another place and giving you an idea of the toil of prison labor in war time, without ever letting it get too grueling. I just didn't find myself invested are actively interested as often as I'd like, which is similar to my minor issues with Arabia. These movies are so big, I don't see why they're stimulating my brain less than some much smaller dramas of the time. I mean, the goals aren't quite the same, it just seems like war as a subject should never veer anywhere close to boredom. Good movie though, especially the ending and Guinness' work.

No comments: