Nice character contrasts mirrored in the action/main trajectory of the film: honor to country vs. honor to self. Perhaps the most human facet of this story goes unspoken of: the Japanese Colonel prepares to kill himself, and it seems like he will go through with it. The next morning we see him alive. He decides to be true to himself over his country's traditions. Ultimately the "madness" of war wins--all die.
English WWII POWs are forced to build a bridge for the enemy. Other English soldiers are then sent on a mission to blow up that bridge. Everyone acts kinda stupid, all the efforts are fruitless so....war is dumb, I guess? Mostly I found the people and their plight silly, specially the very, very, very British Britishness of the commander. Like, can you tone down the Britishness a notch or three? I give it a B-.
A story rich in possibilities for irony and black humour, but despite the huge running time (two hours forty-one minutes!) it gives more screentime to conventional, expertly staged daring-do than satire and Nicholson's stuffy hubris. The magnificent '40s Lean of "Oliver Twist", all economy, chiaroscuro and sharp editing, seems bloated beyond recognition. But Jack Hawkins and Guiness are always watchable.
Lean's first epic after a long series of intimate drama's led to a career defining reinvention as a director of widescreen masterpieces (Kwai, Lawrence, Zhivago). Amazing script by than blacklisted Wison and Foreman. Film featured an iconic turn by Alec Guiness matched by his Japanese counterpart Sessue Hayakawa. Craftmanship was top notch and well deserving of its seven Oscar wins that year including picture.