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The Bridge On The River Kwai: 60th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Finally, The Bridge on the River Kwai is making its debut on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray which also comes the year it is celebrating its 60th anniversary in its existence. “Finally?” you ask? Well, last year it had been noted that this one was being done and ready to go and then…nothing. Now we are toward the end of the year, which it was almost exactly a year ago that it was spotted. Also on that list was Lawrence of Arabia, which PLEASE make that one soon. The Bridge on the River Kwai nabbed Best Picture and Alec Guinness an Academy Award, taking home seven total  (Out of eight nominations, not too shabby) and pretty much sweeping away the major categories. You can order yourself a copy below from the Amazon link (Which they site, as always, says “thank you” with each click), to have when it arrives on the format October 3rd.

Film 

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 KWAIcontinues today as one of the most memorable cinematic experiences of all time.

The Bridge On The River Kwai runs about as long as recent film Blade Runner 2049. An almost three hour runtime that seems somewhat of a controversial choice and risky nowadays, was somewhat the norm for a sweeping period epic. And while this is a war film, its heavy on the drama and light on the action, much like said Replicant epic. Its a film that takes its time, allows things really flourish on its own and really allows one to get a feel for its place, time and look.

Said look is one thing I love about this film. There are some seriously breathtaking shots in this film going on quite constantly. Whether it be focused on mountains, the bridge, the beach or just the camp the soldiers are being held captive at, it just looks so beautiful. Its all real and just caught so well. The film’s climax is one of great expertise and craft that its a marvel to sit and watch. You almost want to rewind the film and watch the climax again right away after seeing it.

Kwai is well decorated with awards, including best director, best picture and best screenplay. But, its also the film that landed legendary actor Alec Guiness his Oscar. And its more than earned. You watch strong leader get broken down and then become a lowly servant following every order. In one of cinema’s most iconic moments at the end, there a turn with Guiness, that you just see it completely in his eyes and it works and feels so damn real. Not many actors could pull that off and if its not done well, the movie could really fail in its final act.

For me, The Bridge on the River Kwai holds up perfectly. It almost has three different films that wind up meeting together for the finale. Its always moving and interesting despite such a long runtime. Its worthy of the awards and legacy its had. Though, I’m very curious as to how well a legendary classic like this would play with a modern teenager.  I would hope it still would, but just the different approach to filmmaking alone has me thinking it could be too slow for them. Just a thought I had watching this. If you fit the profile and have seen the movie, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265 with HDR10

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: The Bridge on the River Kwai come to 4K Ultra-HD with a pretty stunning appearance. Sony is clearly not taking any catalog titles lightly when restoring them for 4K transfer. The film looks fresh, crisp, clear and impressively detailed. You can make out marks in the sand, discern between leaves on far away trees and bushes, the pieces and wood grain of the bridge itself. Clothes show texture, patterns and threads. This looks brand spanking new and is a joy on your eyes to take in. Water and some very nice long skyline or beach shots just look incredible. Fans and film buffs are going to find themselves very happy with one of history’s best movies as it is in its greatest condition and presentation.

Depth:  Good spacing and movement in this movie. Making a 1957 film look fresh and multidimensional is quite the feet. Separation of foreground and background impresses.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep, rich and very natural. No details are lost and they give the image a crisp, lived in sense. No crushing was witnessed when watching for the review.

Color Reproduction: While not a super colorful movie, it has its moments. Mostly browns and greens are the star here, well saturated with all sorts of different strengths. This movie looks all sorts of natural and lifelike. Blues come in nice on the sky as well as reds and purples during some moments where they show up.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are a little warm, but mostly natural and maintains a consistent appearance for the full runtime. In terms of scenes crossing from one to the next, timing does change until the segue has completed. Facial features such as wrinkles, sweat, stubble, dried dirt and overall skin texture just come through quite wonderfully.

Noise/Artifacts: The grain is intact, but is not a distraction and only really noticeable if you’re intentionally trying to key in on it.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Czech 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Hungarian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Russian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Slovak, Swedish, Thai, Turkish

Dynamics: Just as the video was outstanding, so is this brand new Dolby Atmos track. This full encapsulates the territories in the film and blasts your room when things get loud. What’s great is how the sound here has meaning and is completely accurate with how things are utilized.

Height: Overhead isn’t overdone, but you do get some storms and any sort of construction or battle engagement that clearly would happen above.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer is put to good use with music, gunfire, locomotives and explosions that appear in the film.

Surround Sound Presentation: This track has a lot of fun with the 60 year old film. There was a scene where a car was being worked and started all to the left exclusively. Every speaker has its own character, its own tasks and also is able to bring it together as one. Every movement and environment is accurate and fully realized.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crisp and clean. No analog sound to it at all. I’ve abused the word fresh many times already in describing this release, but its true.

Extras 

The Bridge on the River Kwai: 60th Anniversary Edition comes with the Blu-ray edition and an UltraViolet digital copy. All of the bonus materials (Aside from the usual profiles and “moments”) are contained on the Blu-ray disc, ported over from the previous edition.

4K Ultra-HD

Moments

  • Shears (4K, 12:01) 
  • Colonel Nicholson (4K, 13:21)
  • Colonel Saito (4K, 12:25)
  • The Bridge (4K, 14:08) 

Blu-ray

Crossing the Bridge: Picture-in-Graphics Track

Making of The Bridge on the River Kwai (SD, 53:03)

The Steve Allen Show with William Holden & Alec Guinness (SD, 6:03)

The Bridge on the River Kwai Premiere Narrated by William Holden (SD, 1:50)

Rise and Fall of A Jungle Giant (SD, 6:13)

USC Short Film Introduced by William Holden (SD, 15:52)

An Appreciation by Filmmaker John Milius (SD, 8:06)

Photo Gallery (SD, 7:28)

The Bridge on the River Kwai Trailers (HD, 6:31)

Summary 

The Bridge on the River Kwai was a well decorated film in its time, but also a film that has managed to have staying power and still be regarded as well as it was then, if not better. Maybe you’ve not seen it, but that title strikes some familiarity. Sony continues its excellence in bringing catalog titles over the 4K Ultra-HD format with another stunner here and maybe the oldest film they’ve given the updated treatment to. Video and audio are top notch and a wonder to sit and look at and hear. The extras offer nothing new, but pretty much all you could want was already there before. 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray owners, this should be in your collection, no doubt about it.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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