scenes in the jungle are crisply told. We see the bridge being built,
and we watch the standoff between the two colonels. Hayakawa and
Guinness make a good match as they create two disciplined officers
who never bend, but nevertheless quietly share the vision of completing
The obsession is with building a better bridge, and finishing it
on time. The story's great irony is that once Nicholson successfully
stands up to Saito, he immediately devotes himself to Saito's project
as if it is his own. He suggests a better site for the bridge, he
offers blueprints and timetables, and he even enters Clipton's hospital
hut in search of more workers, and marches out at the head of a
column of the sick and the lame. On the night before the first train
crossing, he hammers into place a plaque boasting that the bridge
was ‘designed and built by soldiers of the British army’.
is Clipton who asks him, if they might not be accused of aiding the
enemy. Not at all, Guinness replies,
day the war will be over, and I hope the people who use this bridge
in years to come will remember how it was built, and who built it’.
pleasant sentiment, but in the meantime the bridge will be used to
advance the war against the Allies. Nicholson is so proud of the bridge
that he essentially forgets about the war.
handles the climax with precision and suspense. There's a nice use
of the boots of a sentry on the bridge, sending hollow reverberations
down to the men wiring the bridge with plastic explosives. Meanwhile,
the British celebrate completion of the bridge with an improbable
musical revue that doesn't reflect what is known about the brutal
conditions of the POW camps.
the film's two most important characters both begin to lose their
grip on reality and perspective, the hero more than the villain, we're
not quite certain what is intended by that final dialogue.