The film despite its historical relevance and association to World War II stands out for its interesting depiction of clash of different school of thoughts:Nicholson, Senior British officer (Alec Guinness) –Idealist, principled and constructive; Shears, US Navy Commander (William Holden) –Get your way, anyway; Warden (Jack Hawkins) – Mission foremost, nothing else matters; and Clipton, British medical officer (James Donald) –Practical and Prudent.
Here one can see a strong portrayal of differences in cultural sensibilities and impact of war on American, British and Japanese characters. A Britisher with a principle for everything and playing by rules, an American direct as always just wanting to get going at any cost and finally the resigned but resilient Japanese. A war film can be a very heavy and emotional subject. Not many directors can handle the blood, battle and brute. But a good war film can become a classic immortalising the characters, actors, situations and all the artists behind it. In this film each main character has an author backed role and a chance at a lifetime performance.
Most movies have few actors but only one hero. But a War film has many actors and even more heroes.
The film starts a bit slow and it takes time for the viewer to grasp the situation as well as all the important characters. But then as the bridge starts building so does the tempo of the film engrossing you into it. The climax is eventful and unexpected with all the characters clashing over the bridge which is just not wood and steel but holds a different meaning for each of them. For one it is a deadline driven project, for another it is the example of men’s hard work and performance even under the toughest conditions, yet for another it is the symbol of blood and torture of the war prisoners and for else it is just a pug in the war machinery which needs to be eliminated.
But who wins and who loses is questionable. But it is very well summarised by Major Clipton’s final words of frustration as the curtain falls and the sound of train engine fades in the background: