Catch a classic: Bridge on the River Kwai


If you happen to be in D.C., “Bridge on the River Kwai,” ranked among the greatest war movies of all time, is a must-see experience. It’s playing at the Burke Theater at the U.S. Navy Memorial Nov. 9 and is free for service members who RSVP.

Set in a gritty Burmese jungle during World War II, this 1957 blockbuster tells the tale of a British officer’s battle of wills with a Japanese commandant as he and his men build a railway bridge, and the tense, action-packed mission led by Allied troops to demolish it.

The story loosely mirrors the experiences of real-life POWs who built the Burma-Thailand railway and of Philip Toosey, the senior Allied officer at the Tha Maa Kham Japanese prisoner of war camp in Thailand during World War II. Alec Guinness delivers a complicated performance as Col. Nicholson, shown as a collaborator, but the real-life Toosey committed acts of sabotage and worked to protect his men, according to this BBC article.

“Bridge,” was directed by David Lean, also known for the epic “Lawrence of Arabia.” It went on to win seven Academy Awards and reveals larger truths about men and war, according to this 1957 New York Times review.

Here is the heart of this fine picture, here is its stark and potent theme: discipline and conformity are the obsession of the professional militarist. And upon this rising realization hinges all the subsequent drama and suspense as a small commando team inches into the jungle to destroy the colonel’s precious bridge. Does the colonel actually stop his own countrymen? This one we will not reveal!

And if you’re not in D.C., there’s always Netflix.


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