Film 101: The 21st Century Guide to ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’

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BridgeConsolidatedI get it. You’re a young Millennial with big dreams, a high Klout score, and a type-A obsession with designing your future.

Why would you want to watch a film that’s 57-years old?

The simple answer is, “The Bridge on the River Kwai” isn’t just one of the best war films ever, it’s one of the best films ever…

… that you’re probably never going to watch. No matter what I write.

In fact, if you’re taking the time to read this, you’ve probably seen the film and you understand why it won seven Oscars in 1957, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. Or you’re reading this because you’re one of my Facebook friends and you’re stuck in a long line for lunch. If either is true, thank you, and I hope you enjoy your lunch.

But if you haven’t seen “Bridge,” I want to attempt to convince you; the 21st century, digitally-addled, first-world problem-solving, social media addicted, film fan; why this old movie is a better choice than Netflixing yet another zombie thriller starring Channing Tatum.

And to increase the level of difficulty (and to keep your fickle attention) I’ll list each reason in 140 characters or less. #letsdothis

It’s based on a true story so it has to be good.
Sort of. Based on “The Railway of Death” in World War II Burma, British P.O.W.s build a supply bridge & a commando unit tries to blow it up.

It’s got Obi-Wan Kenobi in it.
Awarded the Best Actor Oscar, Sir Alec Guinness as Colonel Nicholson gives a masterful performance that will make you forget he’s a Jedi.

It’s got Han Solo in it.
No it doesn’t. But William Holden is this era’s Harrison Ford #SunsetBoulevard #Sabrina. Part John Wayne. Part Joseph Cotton. All manly man.

BridgeNicholsonIt’s got GI Joe in it.
Forget the Navy SEALS, this film features an O.G. commando unit jumping out of planes, armed with nothing but harsh language & kung-fu grip.

It’s a short film.
Relatively. Clocking in at two hours and 41 minutes, it’s practically a Youtube video compared to the three hour “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

You’ll sound cooler at cocktail parties.
Epic filmmaker David Lean is known for “Lawrence of Arabia” & “Doctor Zhivago” but chat-up this deeper cut to score points with the ladies.

It’s got that song from “The Breakfast Club.”
Remember when Bender starts whistling the “Colonel Bogey March” and everyone joins in? Apparently the entire Breakfast Club saw “Bridge” too.

It’s artisanal filmmaking.
Epic. No CGI. Handmade with love. They actually built a bridge strong enough for a 25-ton train. You can smell the sweat on the screen.

It’s only $7.
You can barely get a McDonald’s extra value meal for seven bucks. That’s like 7/10ths of an Original Ramen Burger. #yolo

It has a happy ending.
Well, happy in that it has one of the most satisfying endings in film history. A true showstopper that reveals the true nature of war.

This is so much more than a 140-character movie. And it must be seen on the big screen. For the magnificent cinematography, delicious conflict, incredible performances and sweeping story. So leave your iPad at home and kick-it old school in a movie theatre, just like your grandparents did.

You just might like it.

“The Bridge on the River Kwai” screens at Consolidated Theatres Ward on Thursday, February 6th at 7 pm, part of their Oscar Classics Series. Upcoming films include “Casablanca” (2/13), “Lawrence of Arabia” (2/20) and “The Sting” (2/27).

“The Bridge Over the River Kwai” nerd trivia:

• The film was produced by the legendary Sam Spiegel (“The African Queen” “On the Waterfront”).

• Before Holden, Cary Grant was approached to play Shears.

• Assistant director John Kerrison died in a car accident on the crude roads of Ceylon during the shoot.

• In 1956, at the time the film was shot, there was no such thing as a zoom lens.

• It took eight months to build the bridge, cutting down 1,500 jungle trees and using 48 elephants to drag them to the construction site.

• “The Bridge on the River Kwai” was ranked #13 on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 greatest movies.

“The Bridge on the River Kwai” Trailer