Monday, 19 December 2011

The Bridge over the River Kwai

I tested my Bluray player not with an H Day or 3D film but The Bridge over the River Kwai a film released in 1957 when many families, such my own extended network were still affected by the loss of sons in Japanese prisoner of war camps. The film is a fictional account of the building of the Burma Siam railway in which an estimates 80 to 100000 civilians perished and 13000 prisoners of war. The treatment of the prisoners was much worse than depicted in the film. Alec Guiness plays a tradition career British commanding officer who with his men is brought to a camp where the Japanese commander is under pressure to complete a bridge over the river in time for the arrival of a train.

Already at the camp is William Holden an American who spends his time trying to survive by bribing guards to get out of the work parties and get extra rations. He is bemused by the British Commander who immediately takes on the counterpart who insists that the officers should undertake manual labour with the rest of the men despite this being banned by the Geneva Convention. Guiness survives being imprisoned in the oven a corrugated metal box and eventually does a deal with the captors to complete the bridge to high standards as long as he is given control over the men. This brings concessions in terms of medical care and Red Cross deliveries.

Meanwhile William Holden has escaped and his would are treated by local villages before making his way to a British base in Ceylon. Here he is approached by Jack Hawkins to accompany small mission to return to the site and destroy the Bridge ideally with the first train. With Hawkins injured they managed to reach the camp just before completion and train arrival and mine the bridge to detonate as the train arrives. It is Guiness who spots that the bridge is mined as the water drops from the tidal flow revealing the network of explosives. Eventually Guiness realises he has put the mission in jeopardy and falls on the detonating box as he dies and the train arrives with successful and spectacular consequences.

The film won seven Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor Alec Guiness, and Screenplay. Editing Cinematography and Music with the theme Colonel Bogey a hit [parade success. The film also won three Bafta awards, Golden Globes and other awards and remains in several top 100 lists, 10th as recently as 100 war films in 2005.

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