The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Genres - War, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, POW Drama, War Drama  |   Run Time - 155 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Richard Gilliam

The Bridge on the River Kwai ranks as one of the greatest films of all time and arguably director David Lean's best film. At the heart of the film is the performance of Alec Guinness as the obsessively principled Colonel Nicholson. In a lesser film, his character might be simplified into a heroic martyr, but The Bridge on the River Kwai revels in its moral ambiguity: no significant character is either purely a hero or purely a villain. Filmed in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), the film features brutal prisoner-of-war work camps that are nonetheless considerably nicer than their historical counterparts, a good decision since it frees the audience to focus on the battle of wills, at first between Nicholson and Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), later between Shears (William Holden) and Warden (Jack Hawkins). The film's closing line ("Madness... Madness") is among the best-known and most enigmatic closings in screen history. The film received seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (Guinness).