A stolid group of British POWs must contain an explosive secret from their captors or suffer the fallout. Val Guest directs this grimy sweathouse potboiler with a straightforward capacity of violent perception, as the ignoble Japanese soldiers are relegated to brutal masters without humanity, an insufferable truth averred to by survivors.
The violence begins as a skeletal soldier digs his own grave and is then machine-gunned into oblivion while the entire camp is forced to watch. The Japanese Major laughs and rebukes the British prisoners, a man without heart or conscience. He is opposed by a British Major who knows the score (and it’s not in their favor) and motivates his men to survive day by day, hour by hour, to do their duty in order to live…because the alternative is to die at the hands of savages. Here in this dank sepulcher of razor wire choked by the endless jungle, faith becomes as useless as coded verse; war’s hellish parable. Make no mistake, this is a tale told from one perspective, the Japanese relegated to caricature and the captives portrayed as heroic though still humanly fallible. David Lean’s epic BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI is a drama of men playing at war with its morality firmly displayed on a tattered sleeve; Val Guest’s film depicts desiccated and shriveled men refusing to die who have realized that war is no game.
Final Grade: (B)