Bridge on the River Kwai 4K Blu-ray
By Chris Heinonen on
When British POWs build a vital railway bridge in enemy-occupied Burma, Allied commandos are assigned to destroy it in David Lean’s epic World War II adventure THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. Spectacularly produced, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI captured the imagination of the public and won seven 1957 Academy Awards®, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Alec Guinness), and Best Director. Even its theme song, an old WWII whistling tune, the Colonel Bogey March, became a massive hit. THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI continues today as one of the most memorable cinematic experiences of all time.
Bridge on the River Kwai remains a fantastic film now, 60 years after it was released. It captures the struggle of men trying to stay focused and survive during the war, and losing sight of their overall goals at the same time. Col. Nicholson is committed to the ideals of the military, which includes instilling order and rules in an environment where those typically don’t exist. When faced with a situation that places him outside of the normal situation, a Japanese prison camp, he does everything he can to maintain the same rules for the troops under his command.
In doing so, he loses sight of the overall goals for the war. Committed to keeping his troops’ morale up, he has them not only build the bridge the Japanese want, but he builds it better than they need. In his single-minded focus on the task at hand, he loses sight of the fact that he’s hurting his side. Failing to see the big picture and focusing on the small things is why in college we watched this in a political science class, and the lessons still resonate today.
Amazingly, Bridge on the River Kwai is the same length as the recent Transformers film, but they couldn’t be more different. After 60 years people still come back to Bridge on the River Kwai and learn from lessons it teaches, and enjoy the film and its well-deserved Oscars for Best Picture, Director, and Actor. It is a true classic and one that deserves the best release possible.
Bridge on the River Kwai was shot in full aperture 35mm and the final aspect ratio should be 2.55:1, though it wasn’t presented this way for a while. For this disc, Sony used a 4K digital intermediate from the restored version, and this is the best it has ever looked. There is a good amount of film grain present in many scenes, but without much you can do about that the film as a whole looks fantastic. They opening 30 minutes has more issues, as during fades between scenes you can see the resolution drop and the noise increase, as if those elements either were mastered differently or the changes are causing issues with the compression. Some earlier scenes exhibit more noise than later scenes as well, though the negative might be to blame for this.
Overall, this is the best the film has ever looked. It’s not as crystal clear as some other film scans are, but it is almost as good as the film can look. If the opening half hour didn’t have the issues with fading between scenes, I’d say this is perfect, but it feels like they could slightly improve the overall quality. Still, this is nothing to complain about.
The soundtrack has been upgraded here to Dolby Atmos, and it is used reasonably well during the film. Surrounds and height channels are brought into play for atmospheric effects, like rain, but often remain quiet. Dialogue is clear and clean in the center channel, and you have no trouble understanding anything in the dialogue-focused film. They could be more aggressive with the mix here, but given that they are coming from a lesser one, the improvements do make for a better experience than what we originally had.
- Crossing the Bridge: Picture-in-Picture Graphics Track
- Making of The Bridge on the River Kwai
- The Steve Allen Show with William Holden & Alec Guinness
- The Bridge on the River Kwai Premiere Narrated by William Holden
- “Rise and Fall of a Jungle Giant” Featurette
- USC Short Film Introduced by William Holden
- An Appreciation by Filmmaker John Milius
- Photo Gallery
- Theatrical Trailers
Sony A1E OLED, Sony UBP-X800 UltraHD Blu-ray Player, Oppo UDP-203 UltraHD Blu-ray Player, KEF Ci5160RL-THX Fronts, Ci3160RL-THX Center, 2x Ci200RR-THX Surrounds, 4x CI200RR-THX Atmos Speakers, Anthem MRX 1120 Receiver, Power Sound Audio XS30se Subwoofer.
A fantastic film that you'll watch more than once, the image is better than any prior release and the Atmos soundtrack does a good job with dialogue.
Some scenes still show issues with the transfer to 4K, the soundtrack could take more advantage of the extra channels.
Bridge on the River Kwai is a wonderful film that gets a much deserved 4K Blu-ray release for the 60th Anniversary. This is the best the film has ever looked or sounded at home, and will not disappoint fans of the film.