This intelligent and exciting WWII tale, masterfully helmed by Lean (at the start of his "epic" period), features a splendid performance from Guinness as Col. Nicholson, a British officer who has surrendered with his regiment to the Japanese in Burma in 1943. Martinet Nicholson insists
that his men conduct themselves by the book and flatly refuses to cooperate with the equally dutiful Japanese commander, Col. Saito (Hayakawa, in an equally marvelous performance). When Saito insists that the British prisoners construct an elaborate bridge over the gorge of the River Kwai,
Nicholson refuses to permit his officers to work side-by-side with the enlisted men, citing the...