The Bridge on the River Kwai
Collectors's Edition, Collector's Edition
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Spectacularly produced, and the winner of seven Academy Awards® (1957), including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (Alec Guinness), The Bridge on the River Kwai continues to be one of the most memorable cinematic experiences of all time. Now, for the first time on Blu-ray, following an extensive all-new 4K digital restoration from the original negative, with newly restored 5.1 audio, experience director David Lean's masterpiece as you never have before.
Replications of the original lobby cards
Bonus DVD version of the movie
William Holden and Alec Guinness on The Steve Allen Show
Newly Discovered archival audio of William Holden Narrating The Bridge on the River Kwai Premiere
Crossing the Bridge: Picture-in-Graphics track and more
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Although the film is visually stunning, the premise rather shaky and the story is slow moving...very slow moving at times. A group of British soldiers end up in a brutal prisoner of war camp in Thailand. The Japanese commander has a mission for them--to build a bridge over the river Kwai. The Japanese Prisoner of War camps in WWII were notoriously brutal yet something seems almost comedic about this camp. Although the officers are thrown in "boxes" as punishment for refusing to work (because officers aren't required to do physical labor according to the Geneva Convention). Otherwise, the prisoners seem to be free to come and go and swim instead of work and are guarded by a handful of soldiers.
OK, the story is not based on a real incident so let's just enjoy the movie. The plot is thin and not believable but try to overlook all that and realize what an epic spectacle this film was when released. Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) decides that his soldiers need a purpose and a job and he is determined to build the best bridge possible for the Japanese (Really?). It's escaped American prisoner Shears (William Holden) and another group of British soldiers who enter the jungle to sabotage the bridge being built with pride by the prisoners.
THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI is a long film (161 minutes) so it is easy to sometimes let your attention drift away and miss some key statement that helps explain the story. Nicholson once says he and his soldiers were ordered to surrender to the Japanese. I was not quite sure as to why. The story dwells on the madness of war. A bridge in the jungle? A British Colonel obsessed with a building a bridge for the enemy that the British soldiers could be proud of and he is willing to defend the bridge to the end. Not what I was expecting from the little I knew about the film through the years.
Despite its flaws, this is one magnificent spectacle of a film. Directed by the incomparable David Lean. Just look at his credits as a director - Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, Summertime.... , THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI is based on the book by French author Pierre Boulle (Planet of the Apes). It doesn't get much better than this. Yes, that is a real bridge built by laborers and a real train at the end--in the days before computer generated visual effects. The final scenes are amazing. It's the real thing. There was one chance and no hope for a retake if timing or cameras were off. It's certainly a film that all movies buffs must see.
The film transfer is nothing short of perfect. One of the comments and concerns about transfers onto the the new 4K format is that, as in some Blu Ray transfers, the film can tried to be "fixed" to appear smoother and look like a more current film. However, when this is done, it often leaves the film feeling softer with much less detail. This film was shot on, well, film, so you get what you get on film. In this case some of the scenes have obvious grain and some scenes more than others. However, this is exactly how the movie was filmed so you get an accurate reproduction of what the film would look like if you watched it in a movie theater. That's all you can ask for and without any loss of detail.
The one scene that sticks out to me is the big final scene. I've been watching this movie for well over 50 years. At a drive-in, on TV, on a DVD, via Blu Ray and now in 4K. When it was shown on TV it wasn't just a movie shown on TV but an event...at least in my house. My father and I never missed it. I honestly had no idea the train and bridge were real in the final scene and, after watching it in 4K HDR, it left no doubt. It is breath taking.
I know the Blu Ray transfer also received rave reviews but this is better. If you have a 4K set up and like this movie, this is a no brainer. A must have. It's that simple.