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George At 

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The Bridge on the River Kwai

It always seems fitting to go back and watch a classic war film on Memorial Day weekend. They don't get much bigger or better than 1957's THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI.

One of David Lean's best, he created this war masterpiece just before "Lawrence of Arabia" but shows the same massive scale in his storytelling.

Alec Guinness stars as Colonel Nicholson, the epitome of staunch British military leadership. He meets his match when he and his men are captured and placed in a POW camp run by the brutal authoritarian Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa).

Saito commands the POWs to build a massive bridge across the river Kwai that will enable railroad transport and further Japanese domination.

Saito insists that the officers work as well, creating a long standoff of wills.

Meanwhile, American soldier Shears (the terrific William Holden) escapes the POW camp and finds his way back to safety.

When his superiors and the British forces ask him to lead them back to the camp to destroy the bridge, another test of opposing wills begins, along with a tense, exciting mission.

James Donald (The Great Escape) is excellent as the POW camp doctor Major Clipton and Jack Hawkins (Lawrence of Arabia) is classic as Major Warden.

No one made huge, widescreen epics like David Lean. He fills every inch of the film with massive on location scenery and danger, including one of the most impressive and explosive conclusions in film history.

Guinness won Best Actor for his portrayal of a man obsessed with honor and slipping into madness, creating real tension and "what is he doing!?" tension into the finale.

He and Lean notoriously did not get along, with Guinness trying to inject humor into a role he felt was one note and without compassion. Lean insisted he play it straight and the two battled throughout the shoot, but Guinness later acknowledged that Lean had probably pulled his all time best performance out of him. The two worked together again in 1984 on Lean's last film, "A Passage to India".

The film won 7 Oscars all together, including Best Picture, Best Director for Lean, Best Screenplay for adaption from the novel by Pierre Boulle (who also wrote "Planet of the Apes"), Best Cinematography for Jack Hillyard, Best Music for Malcolm Arnold (I miss Maurice Jarre personally) and the much deserved Best Editing Award for Peter Taylor, who makes nearly three hours feel like under two.

An all-time classic, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI is solidly in my all-time Top 100 and gets an A+.

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