AFI Top 100: No. 36 The Bridge on the River Kwai

I am whistling “Colonel Bogey” in my head as I am writing this post. How can you not have the tune stuck in your head after this movie? The Bridge on the River Kwai was charming and an interesting (and fictionalized) take on the psychology of men in a POW camp.

The part of the story I found most intriguing was the struggle between Colonel Saito, the head of the camp, and Lt. Colonel Nelson, who ran the unit in the camp. Initially wanting what was best for their respective country, both men stood their ground in the first half of the movie. Slowly, they both budged. Saito realized he couldn’t possibly carry out his duties in the allotted time without the help on Nelson. Nelson also changed. His view of his role as Lt. Colonel went from serving his country (they were ordered to surrender in the first place) to serving his men (boosting their spirits with the bridge-making) to serving himself (his name on the plaque) and in turn, the Japanese army. His transition was easily the most captivating part of the film because while it was complete “madness,” it also was completely feasible. One could find themselves rationalizing the building of a strong bridge and one could understand the burst of pride radiating from the soldiers upon completion. It was a very captivating idea.

The second part of the story, the one dealing with the American playboy, I did not care for as much. It seemed so unrealistic (and it was) and just did not fit in with the rest of the movie. Did the directors feel it was necessary to throw in an American so the US audience would connect more? Otherwise I have no idea why they felt the need to include this subplot. I think the film would have been a lot better if they had solely focused on what went on at the camp.

Prior to watching this movie, I had read an article that stated this is one of the most historically inaccurate movies of all-time. It was on a list alongside “Pearl Harbor” and “The Patriot.” There are so many inaccuracies that it’s hard to say this was “based on a true story.” Either way, the film was an enjoyable one and I can see why it is an all-time classic.

Next Up: Annie Hall


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