Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) and his platoon have been captured and are now prisoners of war under Japanese command. A long-standing prisoner, Shears (William Holden), makes his escape on the first night as Nicholson refuses to work under rules set down in the Geneva Convention.
As work on the bridge continues, Shears returns with a small group of allies to blow up the bridge as the first train is due to make its crossing.
Quite the contrary Mr Guinness. The Bridge On The River Kwai became Guinness' defining performance as a man who, like many during the war, became more concerned with his own personal struggle than worrying about the war in hand. For his efforts in the emotional portrayal of the Colonel, Alec Guinness received the Oscar for best actor.
The film is also famous for bringing the First World War whistling song "Colonel Bogey March" into fame and, while this was the headlining song, the soundtrack throughout is a masterpiece of common English war songs.
The final scenes are home to the best scenes but some of the other locations, from the secluded mountain top allied camp surrounded by rich forest to the sparse Prisoner of War camp with its corregated iron buildings are equally as impressive.
Of course, the content should be taken with a pinch of salt as with any near-contemporary war film, but it is one of the best as a demonstration of the British mentality or, at the very least, the way the British view themselves.