definitely better the second time around. guinness’ character is an interesting one. he gets certain elements of his logic right, but hubris and obsession with the task at hand put him in a trance. it isn’t until he is near death that he realizes his mistake and, with his death, does the right thing. i was never fully on board with him because of the bone he picks with his japanese camp master – that his officers should not have to perform labor. he makes it a matter of principal, but it’s such a class-based argument. very british.
speaking of his japanese counterpart, colonel saito is one of the more interesting “villains” that i can remember. we know he is a bad guy, but in many ways i found myself with more sympathy for him than guinness’ character. he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place (you decide which one guinness is), and is fighting for his life, honor and pride. he loses the last two first and the first one last. tragic.
holden is somewhat of an afterthought and may have been put in there to appeal to the u.s. audience. he provides some needed comic relief and is somewhat necessary for the conclusion of the plot, but isn’t as integral to my thinking as top-billing might indicate. i probably would have shrunk the film and had guinness plan the destruction of the bridge himself, without the knowledge of any of his peers. this would have made his character more of a martyr and more savvy and powerful in the final analysis. but i tend toward the martyr characters so that’s just me.
a fine film as it is. a bit long, but that’s Lean. the opening theme is too grand and the closing theme is too jovial – score could have used some work.