The Bridge on the River Kwai: Collector's Edition

Stunning hi-def remaster ensures plenty of rich pickings from Lean's masterpiece

The Bridge on the River Kwai finds David Lean at his absolute best. Every bit the equal to his latter Lawrence of Arabia, this astonishing World War II epic stars Alec Guinness as Colonel Nicholson, a no-nonsense army man who obsession with rules clouds his loyalties when he and his fellow POWs are put to work building a bridge for the Japanese in the jungles of Burma. On a collision course with him is William Holden’s Shears, an American who escaped from the camp and has been forced to return with a small team to destroy the bridge.

Picture: This Blu-ray release and the 4K restoration that birthed it stand as a testament to the incredible work being undertaken by Grover Crisp and his team at Sony Colorworks. As Crisp revealed in our exclusive interview, …River Kwai needed to undergo an incredible amount of work to restore it to its original glory, but that’s exactly what you’ll find in this Blu-ray’s AVC 2.55:1 1080p encode. Admittedly, there’s the odd transition or optical that looks a little rough around the edges, but this is entirely down to flaws in the source material that simply cannot be undone. Away from this you’re greeted by the kind of incredible detailing and rich Technicolor presentation that we always knew lay at the heart of the film, but had been prevented from seeing for so long.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: The Blu-ray’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is less immediately enthralling than the restored picture, but has itself gone through a restoration to bring it back to its original lustre. As such, dialogue, music and effects all work as well as they every will (some gunfire and explosions sound a touch muffled) and - for those worried about opening it up to 5.1 channels – there’s very little in the way of directional effects added to the mix, making it feel very sympathetic to the original elements.
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: While it’s not chock-a-block with extras, what’s here should certainly please the film’s many fans. The big new Blu-ray feature is Crossing the Bridge, a glorified pop-up trivia mode that allows the film to play out in a window as reams of info (interviews, book comparisons, etc) are unleashed across the bottom of the screen. Joining this is a BD-Live link, 53min Making of…, a short extract from The Steve Allen Show featuring William Holden and Alec Guinness, an animated photo gallery with Holden discussing the film’s premiere as the accompanying audio, a vintage film about the building of the bridge, another photo gallery, an appreciation of the film from John Milius and two trailers.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: If only every classic film was treated with this much respect on Blu-ray

Sony Pictures, All-region BD, £20 approx, On sale now