The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Script

Finish work!

Go to hut.

Yeah, that figures.

If the new prisoners see us digging graves, they may run.

No time for jokes. Finish work!

Dig, dig.

How about putting us on sick list?

Have a heart, captain. Put us in hospital.

You no sick. You never sick.

Why you always play sick to me, Shears?

Don't want one of these over my head, I guess.

Captain Kanematsu... about a butt?

I give you butt this morning. Both of you.

That's what l mean. I want to return the favor.

When a man gives a gift from the goodness of his heart... you gave me that butt, I remember it from the heart.

That's why...

...l want you to keep this lighter.

Think l stole it?

It belonged to that English kid we just buried.

He willed it to me for a favor I'd done him.

Before I pass on, I want to do the same for you.

You funny man, Shears.

Okay, you go on sick list. Him too.

One of these days Colonel Saito will catch you bribing him...

...then where'll we be?

Before that happens we'll be far away from here, chum.

Far away.

Okay, let's knock off.

Here lies....

Weaver, l forgot who we just buried.



Here lies Corporal Herbert Thomson...

...serial number 01234567.

Valiant member of the King's Own or the Queen's Own or something...

...who died of beriberi in the year of our Lord, 1943...

...for the greater glory of....

-What did he die for? -Come off it.

No need to mock the grave.

I don't mock the grave or the man.

May he rest in peace.

He found little enough of it while he was alive.

"A" Company, mark time!

Mark time!


Into line, left turn.

Stand easy.

We're gonna be a busy pair of gravediggers, Weaver.

Well done, well done.

That colonel doesn't know what he's in for.

-You gonna tell him the truth? -Of course not.

You're neither an officer nor a gentleman.

My name is Nicholson.

I am Colonel Saito.

In the name of His Imperial Majesty...

...l welcome you.

I am the commanding officer of this camp...

...which is Camp 1 6...

...along the great railroad...

...which will soon connect Bangkok with Rangoon.

You British prisoners have been chosen... build a bridge across the River Kwai.

It will be pleasant work, requiring skill.

And officers will work as well as men.

The Japanese army cannot have idle mouths to feed.

If you work hard, you will be treated well.

But if you do not work hard... will be punished.

A word to you about escape.

There is no barbed wire.

No stockade.

No watchtower.

They are not necessary.

We are an island in the jungle.

Escape is impossible.

You would die.

Today you rest. Tomorrow you'll begin.

Let me remind you of General Yamashita's motto:

"Be happy in your work."

Be happy in your work.


Battalion, stand at ease.

Fall out, Major Hughes.

Battalion, stand easy.

Get the men to their quarters. See who's sick.

I'm gonna have a word with this fellow. Colonel!

I heard your remarks just now, sir.

My men will carry on in the way one expects of a British soldier.

My officers and I will be responsible for their conduct.

You may have overlooked the fact that the use of officers for labor... expressly forbidden by the Geneva Convention.

Is that so?

I have a copy of the Convention...

...and would be glad to let you glance through it.

That will not be necessary.

Sit down, please.

Yes, sir.

-I'm gonna have a word with Clipton. -Very good, sir.

Clipton, don't let me interrupt.

-How's the arm? -Nearly healed.

Sir, this is Commander Shears of the United States Navy.

-Good. -How do you do, sir?

We found him and an Australian.

All that's left of the prisoners who built the camp.

U.S. Navy? Out here?

For a sailor, I am sort of landlocked.

-You lost your ship? -The Houston.

I made it ashore, but l got separated from the other survivors.

And your group here?

Mostly Aussies. Some lime--

Some British. Indians, Burmese, Siamese.

And what happened to them?

They died...

...of malaria, dysentery, beriberi, gangrene.

Other causes of death:

Famine, overwork, bullet wounds, snakebites...


Then there were some who just got tired of living.

Has Clipton seen you?

Just about to, sir. Come over here, commander, you can shave later.

All right.

You'll stay with the officers.

We'll scrape up some decent clothing.

Don't bother about me.

I'm not anxious to get off the sick list.

Besides, this is working kit. It's the fashion out here.

The officers in your party did manual labor?

I think you could call it that.

I raised that very point with Colonel what's-his-name.


-l think he understands now. -ls that so?

Yes. l must say he seems quite a reasonable type.

Well, l must be pushing on.

There's an officer's meeting at 7.

-Give me a list of your requirements. -Yes, sir.

Anything we can do.

Oh, thank you, sir.

-What is it? -Never mind.

Go on, say it.

I can think of a lot of things to call Saito...

...but reasonable, that's a new one.

Perhaps Colonel Nicholson defines the word differently.

Any other points?

-By your leave, sir? -Yes, Jennings?

About the escape committee. I've spoken with Commander Shears--

There won't be any escape committee.

I don't understand, sir. Lieutenant Jennings has a plan.

Yes, yes, I'm sure Jennings has a plan, but escape?

Where? Into this jungle? That fellow, Saito, is right.

No need for barbed wire here. One chance in 1 00 of survival.

I'm sure a man of Commander Shears' experience will back me up on that.

I'd say the odds against a successful escape are 1 00 to one.

-Right. -But may l add another word?


The odds against survival in this camp are even worse.

You've seen the graveyard. They're your real odds.

To give up hope of escape... stop thinking about it, is like accepting a death sentence.

Why haven't you tried to escape, commander?

I'm biding my time. Waiting for the right moment, the right company.

I understand how you feel.

Of course, it's the duty of a captured soldier to attempt escape.

But my men and I are involved in a curious legal point...

...of which you are unaware.

In Singapore we were ordered to surrender by command headquarters.

Ordered, mind you.

Therefore, in our case, escape might well be an infraction of military law.

-Interesting? -Yes, sir, interesting point.

I'm sorry, sir, I didn't quite follow you.

You intend to uphold the letter of the law, no matter what it costs?

Without law, commander, there is no civilization.

That's just my point. Here, there is no civilization.

Then we have the opportunity to introduce it.

I suggest we drop the subject of escape.

Is there anything else?

I think we're all clear on the program.

I want everything to go off without a hitch starting tomorrow morning.

And remember this:

Our men must always feel they are still commanded by us...

...and not by the Japanese.

So long as they have that idea, they'll be soldiers and not slaves.

Are you with me there, commander?

Well, l....

I hope they can remain soldiers, colonel.

As for me, I'm just a slave.

A living slave.

Queer bird. Even for an Ameri--

He's been in isolation too long, poor chap.

Cut off from his unit. It should be a lesson to all of us.

English prisoners!

Notice l do not say English soldiers.

From the moment you surrendered, you ceased to be soldiers.

You will finish the bridge by the 12th day of May.

You will work under the direction of a Japanese engineer.

Time is short. All men will work.

Your officers will work beside you.

This is only just...

...for it is they who betrayed you by surrender.

Your shame is their dishonor.

It is they who told you...

...better to live like a coolie then die like a hero.

It is they who brought you here, not I.

Therefore, they will join you in useful labor.

That is all.

Officer prisoners, collect your tools.

Bradley, back in your place.

I must call your attention, Colonel Saito... Article 27 of the Geneva Convention.

"Belligerents may employ prisoners of war...

...who are fit, other than officers--"

Give me the book.

By all means. You read English, l take it?

-Do you read Japanese? -I'm sorry, no.

If it's a matter of translation, I'm sure it can be arranged.

You see, the Code states that--

Stand fast in the ranks.

You speak to me of code?

What code?

The coward's code!

What do you know of the soldier's code?

Of Bushido? Nothing!

You are unworthy of command!

Since you refuse to abide by the laws of the civilized world...

...we must consider ourselves absolved from our duty to obey you.

My officers will not do manual labor.

We shall see.

All enlisted prisoners to work.

Sergeant Major! Take the men to work.

Battalion, take up tools.

Move to the left in columnar route. Left turn!

"A" Company, by the right, quick march.

Eyes right.

Eyes front.

Eyes right.

Quick march, eyes right.

"C" Company, by the right.

What's he up to?

Looks like he doesn't want any witnesses.

Now, you will be reasonable.

You will order your officers to work.


I will count three.

If by the third count... and your officers are not on the way to work...

...l will give the order to fire.

He's going to do it.

Believe me, he's really going to do it.


I warn you, Colonel Saito.



Colonel Saito, I've seen and heard everything.

So has every man in the hospital.

There are too many witnesses.

You can't call it a mass escape. Most of those men can't walk.

Is this your soldier's code? Murdering unarmed men?

You see, Jennings, there are certain advantages to being on the sick list.

I'll say this for the old man. He's got guts.

"Into the valley of death rode the 600."

How's that, sir?

That kind of guts.

Also the kind they had in 1914...

...when officers fought with only a swagger stick.

-l see what you mean. -You don't see what l mean at all.

The kind of guts that can get us all killed.

Excuse me, sir, I'd like to go along too.

Arm's almost healed, sir, really it is.

What about him?

He didn't order us not to escape, he suggested.

Listen, when a man like your colonel suggests something, it's an order.

Here we go again.

Colonel Saito says all officers to punishment hut.

Tell them to go.

Not you.


Leave him alone!

They're gonna put him in the oven.

For he's a jolly good fellow For he's a jolly good fellow For he's a jolly good fellow And so say all of us And so say all of us And so say all of us For he's a jolly good fellow For he's a jolly good fellow For he's a jolly good fellow And so say all of us


One, two, three, four.

No, no, no!

Let go!

You wish to see me?

I've been trying to see you for three days.

It's about Colonel Nicholson. He's been shut up in that hut--

I could have you shot.

Those prisoners who tried to escape, they were in your charge.

I knew nothing about the escape.

It does not matter.

One must even respect those who tried.

For a brief moment, between escape and death...

...they were soldiers again.

But it is insane to try and escape.

Two soldiers shot, the third drowned.

To what end?

It was an escape from reality.

There is your reality.

This shows the position work should have reached by noon today.

And this shows the position of actual progress.

Because of your colonel's stubbornness...

...we are far behind schedule.

That is not all.

Enlisted prisoners sabotaged the work.

Yes, l have seen it. I could have them all shot.

Then who would build your bridge?

Besides, are you sure it's sabotage?

Perhaps the men don't work well without their own officers.

My officers will direct them. Your officers will work beside them.

That's for Colonel Nicholson to decide. As he said, it's against the rules.

Do not speak to me of rules.

This is war!

This is not a game of cricket.

He's mad, your colonel...

...quite mad.

Sit down, please.

I have decided to allow you one visit to your colonel.

Thank you.

Tell him that if his officers will not work...

...I'll be forced to close the hospital...

...and your patients will work in their place.

And many will die, and he will be responsible.

Go and speak to him. You have five minutes.

Hey, the doc's going to see the old man.


It's Clipton, sir.

I brought you a few things.

-How are the men? -Fine, sir, fine.

We scraped together a little meat and a coconut.

And the officers?

Oh, they're not so good. They're still in detention.

And Lieutenant Jennings.... Jennings is dead.

-What? -Killed, attempting to escape.

Also two others, Corporal Weaver and the American.

Jennings. Poor, brave lad.

I warned him, didn't l, Clipton?

Look, sir, we haven't much time.

I'm going to clean you up a little while l talk.

I've got something to tell you.

I've just had a word with Saito.

That man is the worst commanding officer I've ever come across.

Actually, I think he's mad. Carry on.


I know, sir, but he means it. I'm sure he does.

It's a question of face, pure and simple. And he can't give in.

It's still blackmail.

Sir, you can't stand much more of this.

Wouldn't the officers be better off working than suffocating in that hole?

The men are doing a wonderful job. They're going as slow as they dare.

But Saito's cut their food rations...

...and if he makes the sick men work....

Well, they're going to die. That's all there is to it.

Yes, Clipton, l understand. Truly.

But don't you see? It's a matter of principle.

If we give in now, there'll be no end to it. No.

Sir, we're lost in the jungle, a thousand miles from anywhere.

We're under the heel of a man who'll stop at nothing to get his way.


No one will ever know or care what happens to us.

Give in, sir. Please!

I'm adamant.

I will not have an officer from my battalion working as a coolie.

-Time. -All right.

Please thank those concerned.

Everybody in the hospital contributed one piece.

Reynolds stole the coconut.

We'll be able to get you something from time to time.

We've bribed one of your guards.

Goodbye, sir. And good luck.

Many thanks.

-Clipton! -Yes, sir?

Did you say that American chap was killed?

Yes, sir. Shot and drowned.

It's insane to plan escapes.

Three men killed, and to what end?

-Time! -Here.

-Here is where we must win through. -Time, time!

The doc just looked at us and shook his head. Whatever that means.

Means only one thing, colonel won't give in.


It's like this.

Colonel Nicholson won't give in to force.

It's a question of principle.

As medical officer, I protest to the way he's being treated.

It's a wonder he's still alive.

Should a tragedy occur, it would be tantamount to murder.

He is responsible.

Not I.

You sick?

Are they both mad?

Or am l going mad?

Or is it the sun?


Battalion, attention.

English prisoners.

Let us ask the question...

...why does the bridge not progress?

You know why, because your officers are lazy!

They think themselves too good to share your burden.

This is not just.

Therefore, you are not happy in your work.

Therefore, the bridge does not progress.

But there is another cause.

I do not hide the truth.

With deep shame and regret...

...l admit to you the failure...

...of a member of the Japanese staff.

I refer to Lieutenant Miura.

He is a bad engineer.

He is unworthy of command.

Therefore, I have removed him from his post.

Tomorrow we begin again.

I shall be in personal command.

Today we rest.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

As token of regard for your efforts in the future...

...l give presents to you all.

Let us be happy in our work.

Company, dismissed.

Battalion, dismissed.

Hey, take a look at this.

Red Cross! He's given us our--

Hey, he's given us our own Red Cross parcels.

"Tomorrow we begin again."

Hey, Harry, look.

They're letting the old man out.

Most likely gonna give him another pasting.

Good evening, colonel.

Do you mind sitting over here?

I am having rather a late supper.

English corned beef.

No, thank you.

Produce of Scotland.

I prefer it to sake.

I spent three years in London, you know.

I studied at the London Polytechnic.



Later, perhaps?


I was not a good artist.

My father disapproved.

He felt l belonged in the army.

So l changed from art to engineering.

I must tell you, Colonel Saito.

I intend to make a full report of your activities in this camp.

I do not think you quite realize my position.

-l must carry out my orders. -Oh, quite, quite.

My orders are to complete the bridge by the 12th day of May.

-l have only 1 2 weeks more. -No doubt.

Therefore, I am compelled to use all available personnel.

But no officers, except in an administrative capacity.

But officers are working along the entire railway.

You know it. l know it.

I'm not responsible for the actions of other officers.

Personally, I'm appalled.

Let's not get excited.

Will you have a cigar?

No. Thank you.

When I said all officers must work...

...naturally, l never meant you, the commanding officer.

My orders were only intended for officers below--

None of my officers will do manual labor.

Please! I was about to say:

I've been thinking the matter over and have decided... put majors and above on administrative duties...

...leaving only junior officers to lend a hand.

I'm afraid not. The Convention's quite clear on that point.

Do you know what will happen to me if the bridge is not ready in time?

I haven't the foggiest.

I'd have to kill myself.

What would you do if you were me?

I suppose if l were you...

...I'd have to kill myself.


I warn you, colonel...

...if I am to die, others will die before me.

Do you understand that?

-Major Clipton did mention that. -Well?

That won't solve your problem.

But I'm sure we can arrive at a proper solution.

Please sit down.

Now, tell me, colonel... you agree that the first job of an officer is command?

-Of course. -Good.


Take this bridge of yours.

It's quite an enormous undertaking.

Frankly, I have grave doubts whether your lieutenant-- What's his name?

-Miura. -Miura.

--is capable of tackling a job of such importance.

On the other hand, l have officers, Reeves and Hughes for instance...

...who have built bridges all over India.

The men respect them.

It's essential for an officer to have that respect, I'm sure you agree.

If he loses it, he ceases to command.

And what happens then? Demoralization and chaos.

A pretty poor commander I would be if l allowed that to happen.

Perhaps you are not aware...

...that the bridge is now under my personal command.

Really? And may l ask, are you satisfied with the work?

-l am not! -You've proved my point.

I hate the British!

You are defeated but you have no shame.

You are stubborn but have no pride.

You endure but you have no courage.

I hate the British!

Pointless, going on like this.

Stay there!

Stand down. Stand down!

Battalion, attention!

Battalion, stand at ease.


Do you know what is the date today, colonel?

I'm afraid I've lost count.

It's the anniversary of our great victory...

-...over Russia in 1905. -Oh, yes.

Throughout East Asia we are celebrating this date.

In honor of this occasion...

...l have given your troops a day of rest.

Many thanks.

I am declaring a general amnesty.

You and your officers may return to your quarters.

As part of this amnesty... will not be necessary for officers to do manual labor.

He's done it!

Somebody deserves a medal, sir.

How many men in your party?

Well, l don't really know, sir.

-You don't know? -Sir, 1 2, usually.

But, well, one of the men took sick very suddenly this morning, sir.

It took three or four to help him to the hospital.

And-- He took terrible sick, sir.

A corporal should always know how many men he has under him.

Oh, yes, sir.

Have you a nervous affliction? If not, stop making those faces at once.

It may be funny to you, but it's not military behavior.

No, sir.

We must put a stop to these demonstrations.

Yes, sir.

-l say, Reeves? -Yes, sir?

You ever constructed a bridge across a stream like the Kwai?

Yes, sir, half a dozen of them, in Madras, Bengal....

If this were your bridge... would you get it under way?

Get it under way, sir?

Well, first of all, I wouldn't build it here.

Oh, why not?

As l was trying to tell you...

...the Japanese couldn't have picked a worse location. There's no bottom.

You see those piles?

They're sinking.

Our chaps could drive those logs till doomsday and they wouldn't hold.

Where would you build it?

Why, further downstream, sir. Across those narrows.

Then we'd have solid bedrock on both banks.

Hughes, if this were your bridge, how would you use the men?

Well, sir, not the way they're doing it. It's utter chaos, as you can see.

It's a lot of uncoordinated activity.

No teamwork.

Some of those parties are actually working against each other.


I tell you, gentlemen, we have a problem on our hands.

Thanks to the Japanese, we now command a rabble.

There's no order, no discipline.

-Our task is to rebuild the battalion. -Yes, sir.

Which isn't going to be easy.

But fortunately, we have the means at hand. The bridge.

-The bridge, sir? -The bridge.

We'll teach them a lesson in Western efficiency that will put them to shame.

We'll show them what the British soldier is capable of.

Yes. l see your point, sir.

I realize how difficult it's going to be here...

...where you can't find what you need.

-But there's the challenge. -l beg your pardon, sir.

You mean, you really want them to build the bridge?

You're not usually so slow on the uptake, Evans.

I know our men. You've got to keep them occupied.

Fact is, if there weren't any work, we'd invent some, eh, Reeves?

-That we would, sir. -So we're lucky.

But it's going to be a proper bridge.

Here again l know the men.

It's essential that they take pride in their job.

-Right, gentlemen? -Yes, sir.

Reeves, you're the key man in this situation, as engineer.

Tell me what you want and we'll organize it. Can we make a go of it?

-We'll do our best, sir. -Fine.

We must draw up our plans...

...then arrange a conference with Saito...

...and set him straight.

Well, l think that takes care of all the procedural matters. Now....

Oh, yes.

The next point is somewhat unpleasant for all concerned, I'm afraid.

Sorry to tell you, we feel the position of the bridge was fixed hastily...

...and, l have to add, incorrectly.


Unfortunately, yes.

Our engineer has made a study of the site...

...and has concluded that the river bottom there is too soft.

Too soft?

Mud. All the work up to now has been useless.

-Reeves, will you carry on? -Yes, sir.

Colonel, I've made tests.

Those piles of yours could be hammered below water level before they'd hold.

That bridge would collapse under the first train.

The pressure and soil resistance figures in tons per square inch.

Just a moment, Reeves, before you get too involved.

Colonel, do you suppose we could have a cup of tea?

Then l take it we all agree that if we're to avoid disaster...

...we build a new bridge, at the site picked by Reeves...

...400 yards downstream.

So let's proceed to the next point.

I've decided to alter the daily work quota of our men.

-Alter? -Yes, I've increased it.

From a yard and a half of earth moved to two.

I was sure it would meet with your approval.

Major Hughes has all the facts. Hughes, would you take over?

I've done a time study, Colonel Saito, of the entire project.

As you can see, the available forces have been badly distributed.

I would strongly urge we revise the organization of the working parties.

Just a moment. Colonel, it would save time if we could work during dinner.

Would it be possible to have a meal served here?

Of course.

If we--

-Carry on, Hughes. -Yes, sir.

If we increase the number of squads and specialize their functions...

...I'm certain the total daily output can be increased by 30 percent.

Now, Colonel Saito, I have one more point....

Now, there's another important decision that can't be postponed.

As most of the British will work on the bridge...

...only a small number will be available for railway work.

I must ask you to lend us some of your men to reinforce the railway gang... the final stretch of track can be completed as quickly as possible.

I have already given the order.

We must fix the daily work quota for your men.

I thought of setting it at a yard and a half so as not to overtire them...

...but isn't it best to be the same as ours?

That would also create a healthy competitive spirit.

I have already given the order.

-We'll try to surpass that, won't we? -Yes, sir.

I think that completes the agenda for this evening.

Thank you, Colonel Saito, for your kind attention.

And are there any other questions?

One question.

Can you finish the bridge in time?

Frankly, the consensus of opinion is that it's impossible.

But we'll certainly give it a go.

We mustn't forget we wasted a month through an unfortunate disagreement...

...for which l was not to blame.

Is there anything else?


Thank you. The meeting is closed.

-Good night. -Good night.

I hope these Japanese appreciate what we're doing for them.

For the moment, I'm not concerned with their appreciation.

-Good night, Clipton. -Good night, sir.

By the way, l meant to tell you...

...there are trees in this forest very similar to elm.

And the elm piles of London Bridge lasted 600 years.

-Six hundred years, Reeves? -Yes, sir.

Six hundred years.

That would be quite something.

Good morning. I'm looking for an American named Commander Shears.

-Oh, yes, down on the beach. -Oh, thank you very much.


Too many eyes.

You give me powders, pills, baths, injections, enemas...

...when all l need is love.

It's true. All you really need is love.

What makes you so sure you'll get a medical discharge?

Because I'm a civilian at heart, lover.

And l always follow my heart.


How's that, commander?

Don't call me commander.

It's unromantic.

You're an officer yourself.

How would you like it if l called you Lieutenant Lover?

Let's be democratic. Just call me "sir."

Yes, sir.

Brass ahoy.

He wants to see you. He's all yours.

-I'm going for a swim. -Don't leave me.

-Commander Shears? -Yes.

My name's Warden.

-How do you do? -Sorry to intrude--

That's okay, major. I'm used to it by now.

Like a martini?

That's very kind, but l think not.

-Mind if l have one? -No.

How did you get that?

Where there's a hospital, there's alcohol.

Oh, yes, of course. Jolly good.

Well, I'll be as brief as possible.

I belong to a rather rum group called Force 31 6.

Our headquarters is up in the Botanical Gardens.

-Protecting rare plants from the enemy? -Not quite.

-Sure you won't have a martini? -No, thanks.

We have a particular interest in that railway you worked on.

You could give us no end of valuable information.

Well, I'm leaving for the States in a few days...

...and I've already told your people everything I know.

But you could help us in a rather special sense.

I know it's a terrible imposition...

...but l wonder if you could possibly come out and see us.

Well, if you want to go over the whole thing again.

Oh, that's very kind. Lord Louis will be grateful.

-Lord who? -Mountbatten.

-We're one of his special pigeons. -Oh, I see.

Shall we say this evening, then? About 8. I'll send a car for you.

This evening? Out of the question.

Well, tomorrow morning then? About 1 0?

-Okay, 1 0:00. -Thanks very much.

-Cheerio. -Cheerio.

Good luck.


I know, you're terribly sorry, but you're going to stand me up tonight.

You couldn't be more wrong.

General salute!

Present arms!

-May I see your pass, sir, please? -Oh, yes.

Thank you, sir.

Carry on, driver.

Major Warden's bungalow is at the end of the path.

All right, thanks.

Good show, Jenkins. Good show!

Come along, Thomson. Use your knife, man. Use your knife.

Good! On your feet, chaps. Away to the debriefing room quickly.

Come on, move yourselves! Move! Move quickly!

Very clumsy, Joyce, very clumsy.

Always use your knife immediately, Joyce.

You see, he's gained the initiative.

Wait a minute! I'm terribly sorry, sir.

-You're sorry? -So am l, sir.

-l thought you were the enemy. -I'm American, if that's what you mean.

-That'll be all, Joyce. -Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.

-What can l do for you, sir? -l was on my way to see Major Warden.

I'll show you the way. He'll finish his lecture any moment now.

-That's the end of his lecture. -Thunderous ovation.

He believes in keeping our training as close to real life as possible.

-Major Warden, sir? -Yes?

Very good of you to come.

-l hope they took care of you. -They certainly have.

Thank you, staff. Well, come along, then.

Colonel Green is looking forward to meeting you.

-Fascinating place, isn't it? -Utterly charming.

Didn't realize it was a commando school.

We're trying to discourage the use of that word. Such a melodramatic air.

What do you do here?

Sabotage, demolition, that line of country.

We're using P.E., plastic explosives. It's wonderful stuff.

That pop was made with a lump half this size.

It's twice as powerful as gelignite and only half the weight. Here.

It's quite harmless until it's detonated.

Thanks for telling me.

It's completely waterproof and actually plastic.

See? You can do what you like with it.

This is my place.

Go ahead.

Oh, I'm dying for a cup of tea.

-Would you care for one? -No, thanks.

-A drink? -No, thank you.

-Pot of tea for one, please, Peter. -Very good, sir.

Do you read this?

Oh, l taught Oriental languages at Cambridge before the war.

I never congratulated you on your escape. lt was a good show.

I was lucky. If your sea-rescue plane hadn't spotted me, l wouldn't be here.

No, I suppose not.

Would you like to see where you were?

All right.

Our information's rather scanty. It's mostly based on your report.

But we think the camp is about here.

Say, do your people have any idea what happened to Colonel Nicholson?

He had guts. They were about to shoot him and he didn't bat an eye.

If you're about to be shot there's not much you can do.

Here is the River Kwai, and here is the village where you were helped.

And here is the railway.

But then you must be fairly familiar with all this area.

Not really, l was out of my head half the time.

The railway starts down here in Singapore. Malaya...

...Bangkok, Rangoon. Their idea is to drive on through, into India.

-Where was I picked up? -Oh, about here.

The Japanese aim to open the Bangkok- Rangoon section by the middle of May.

Naturally, we'll try to prevent them.

It's too far for bombers to carry an adequate load.

We'll have to go smash it on the ground.

-How will you get there? -Parachute drop, then march.

With demolition equipment through that jungle?

Our chief problem is lack of firsthand knowledge.

You see, none of us have ever been there.

-l don't want to discourage-- -lt should be interesting.

Colonel Green's given me the Kwai bridge.

I'm gonna take a team in and blow it up.

Lucky you.

Sure you won't have tea?

No, thanks. l don't want to be rude, but I've got a luncheon date at 2.

-So if there are any questions.... -Of course, I'm sorry.

Well, there is only one question, actually.

How would you feel about going back?

Come again?

I know, under the circumstances, it's a bit much...

...but you have a unique knowledge for our purpose.

And we'd love to have you with us.

That's why you brought me here?

To ask me this?

Well, frankly, yes.

Major, I just got out of there. My escape was a miracle.

Now you want me to go back? Don't be ridiculous!

This is embarrassing--

I can't go back! l don't belong to you. I belong to the American Navy.

Actually, Colonel Green has taken the matter up with your people.

-With my people? -Your Navy's turned you over to us.

A signal arrived yesterday morning from your ClNC Pacific...

...authorizing your temporary transfer of duty to Force 31 6.

-They can't do this to me. -I'm afraid they have.

It was difficult to know how to break it to you.

But they can't do this to me. I mean it. My Navy's made a mistake.

Look. I'm not a Navy commander. I'm not even an officer.

The whole thing's a fake. I'm just an ordinary swab jockey, second class.

When the Houston sunk, l made it ashore with a real commander.

Later on, we ran into a Japanese patrol. He was killed.

I figured it was just a matter of time before l was captured--

So you changed uniforms with a dead man.

I thought officers would get better treatment.

That's very sensible.

But at Saito's camp, the officers worked along with the rest.

Yes, there's always the unexpected, isn't there?

I kind of got used to being a commander... when l arrived here at the hospital...

...l took a look at the enlisted men's ward and then the officer's ward...

...and l said to myself, "Let's let it ride along for a while."

There were certain advantages.

I saw one of them on the beach.

Anyway, that's the whole story.

The point is, you can't use me. You want an officer... American commander named Shears who doesn't exist.

When the Navy learns the truth, they'll say:

"Ship him home in irons for impersonating an officer."

-Once that happens, I've got it made. -Got it what?

-Made. I'd like that drink now. -Of course.

I'll apply for a medical discharge.

I'll tell them I impersonated an officer...

...because I went off my rocker in the jungle.

I'm getting worse, you know. Sometimes I think I'm Admiral Halsey.

It's quite a clever plan.

It's not only clever, it's foolproof.

If my Navy finds out who l am...

...those temporary orders won't be worth the paper they're written on.

This is your photograph, isn't it?

-Where did you get this? -lt took a bit of doing...

...because your people couldn't identify you.

Finally your ClNC Pacific sent us a copy of your service record.

The photograph, fingerprints. Would you care to have a look?


You see, we've known about your actual rank for nearly a week.

Your Navy's in an awkward position.

In one sense you're a blasted hero...

...for making an escape from the jungle.

But at the same time, they can't bring you home...

...and give you the Navy Cross for impersonating an officer.

I suppose that's why they were so happy to hand you over to us.

You see?

Hot potato.

As far as your present rank is concerned...

...we're fairly informal about those things in Force 31 6.

You'd have the simulated rank of major.

Simulated major. That figures.


As long as I'm hooked, I might as well volunteer.

Good show!

Oh, Colonel Green, sir.

This is Major Shears. He volunteered to go and help me blow up the bridge.


Good show!

Jolly good show, major!

Get up to sick bay, Baker. This foot's infected.

The colonel might think I'm malingering.

I'm the medical officer, Baker. Get cracking.

Will someone tell me why the old man wants us to build a proper bridge?

Don't you worry about old Nick. He knows what he's doing.

Hello, Clipton. About time you paid us a visit.

Fine job our chaps are doing. First-rate.

Yes. How's he behaving?

He's been most reasonable since we took over.

-l wonder what he's thinking. -l haven't the foggiest.

-Thanks, Reeves. -Right, sir.

What do you think?

Quite a challenge, isn't it?

Sir, are you convinced that building this bridge is a good idea?

-Are you serious? -Yes, sir.

A good idea? Take another look.

You don't agree morale is high? Discipline has been restored?

Their condition has been improved?

-Are they a happier lot or aren't they? -Yes, sir, but--

They feed better and they are no longer abused.

-That's all true. -Well, then.

Honestly, Clipton, there are times when l don't understand you at all.

I'll try to make myself clear, sir.

The fact is, what we're doing could be construed as...

...forgive me, sir, collaboration with the enemy.

Perhaps even as treasonable activity.

We're prisoners of war. We haven't the right to refuse to work.

I understand that, sir. But must we work so well?

Must we build them a better bridge than they could have themselves?

If you had to operate on Saito, would you do your best or let him die?

Would you prefer we disintegrate in idleness?

Would you have it said that our chaps can't do a proper job?

It's important to show these people they can't break us in body or in spirit.

Take a good look, Clipton.

One day the war will be over.

I hope that the people who use this bridge in years to come...

...will remember how it was built, and who built it.

Not a gang of slaves, but soldiers. British soldiers, even in captivity.

-Yes, sir. -You're a fine doctor...

...but you've a lot to learn about the army.

Hold him! Hold him!

Use your boot! Get your boot in there, will you?

Good morning.

What on earth are you people staring at?

Get on with your jobs!

Now get him with your boot!

I'm awfully sorry I'm late, sir.

Four minutes late, to be exact. You were in need of medical attention?

-Sir? -l was referring to the nurse.

Oh, yes, very ingenious. Warden was right.

Sit down.

I asked you here to help us pick the fourth member of your team.

-Ask Mr. Joyce to come in. -Yes, sir.

Chapman here wants Joyce, but I have my doubts about him.

I think he has too much imagination as distinct from cold calculation.

As I've told you before... this job, even when it's finished there's always one more thing to do.

He's the best swimmer in the school, sir.

I'm well aware of your evaluation. The opinion I want is Shears'.

All right, at ease.

These gentlemen are thinking of taking you for a hike into the jungle.

Yes, sir.

You were an accountant in Montreal?

Yes, sir. Not really an accountant, sir.

That is, l didn't have my charter.

Exactly what did you do?

Well, sir, I just checked columns and columns of figures...

...which people had checked before me...

...and then other people checked them after I had checked them.

-Sounds a frightful bore. -Sir, it was a frightful bore.

How did you happen to wind up here?

In '39 l came over to London to enlist.

About two years later I volunteered for this work.

-You volunteered! -Yes, sir. See, the regular army--

Go ahead, you can be frank.

Well, the regular army reminded me of my job in civilian life.

They don't expect you to think.

Think about this.

Are you quite sure you'd be able to use it in cold blood?

I know how to use it, sir.

That's not what l meant. Could you use it in cold blood?

Could you kill without hesitation?

That's a question I've often asked myself, sir. It's worried me quite a bit.

And what was the answer?

I don't honestly know, sir.

I've tried to imagine myself....

I suppose I find it hard to kid myself that killing isn't a crime.

It's an old army problem.

Well, l think that's all. Thank you, Joyce.

Am l to go with the team, sir?

We'll let you know.

You see what I mean.

Well, at least he was honest.

None of us ever know the answer to that question until the moment arises.

What's your opinion, Shears?

Well, sir, he's Canadian.

And that's in keeping with the international composition of this outfit.

If he wants to go, he can even take my place.

Well, if you're all agreed on Joyce, he's yours.

I had a report from air reconnaissance on that village.

There's sufficient clearing to make your jump at last light.

-You've had parachute training? -No, sir.

Blast. This is awkward.

Silly, it never occurred to me.

Well, maybe--

He's right. Arrange some practice jumps for him.

I'll pop over and check right away.

-All right, Chapman, you can run along. -Yes, sir.

Well, feel like a sniff of air?

Yes, sir.

You don't realize what a plum you are for us.

Your knowledge of the area, making friends in that village.

It's almost as if your whole escape had been planned with us in mind.

By the way, here's something that'll interest you. The new L pill.

-L pill? -L for lethal. Instantaneous, painless.

Much better than the old ones. For capture, of course.

You're telling me not to be taken alive.

I wouldn't recommend it.

If any of you get hurt or wounded the others will have to leave him behind.

The objective comes first in our work.

You want my honest evaluation of this team?

I didn't want to speak out in front of them.

I understand, go ahead.

Well, Chapman will be fine. Ice water in his veins.

Joyce is.... He'll be okay.

-lt's Warden I don't get. -Oh, why not?

Cambridge don and all of that.

It's one thing to play with explosives like a kid with firecrackers--

He's not without experience, you know.

When we lost Singapore, he stayed behind to blow up a couple of bridges.

And many other installations before the Japs caught him.

-Caught him? -Yes.

-Fascinating story. He-- -Sir, it's most annoying.

In view of time, they don't think practice jumps would be worthwhile.

-No? -If you make one jump...'ve only got 50 percent chance of injury.

Two jumps, 80 percent. Three jumps, you're bound to get your packet.

The consensus is, the most sensible thing for Major Shears to do... to go ahead and jump and hope for the best.

With or without parachute?

Oh, very good!

With or without!

He's in the trees!

Yai says we can't reach the Kwai by the route you took.

There are too many Japanese patrols. We'll swing north through heavy jungle.

-Who's gonna lead the way? -Yai himself.

He hates the Japanese. They took all his men.

Which means we shall have to use women bearers.

-Women bearers. -They're very capable, I'm told.

He says it's dangerous to spend the night in the village.

There's an enemy post three miles away so we'll have to sleep in the jungle.

-What about Chapman? -Yai will bury him and his chute.

Is there something wrong?

I was just thinking. You speak Yai's language. I don't.

He's gonna lead you back to the river by a route I never took.

Will someone tell me why I'm so indispensable to this outfit?

I know how you feel, but there's always the unexpected, isn't there?

Tell that to Chapman.

Let's get cracking.

You're lovely.


Be happy in your work.

Yes, sir.


She's telling you to hold still. She'll take the leeches off your back.

What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?

I'll teach you to say that in Siamese.

No, that would spoil it. Too much talk always spoils it.

What's wrong with that thing?

It's taken an awful beating. I can't get a strong signal.

I'll tell you what's wrong.

It's wet, mildewed, corroded, rotten. Like everything else in this jungle.

You might as well dump it!

This is Radio Tokyo signing off.

This is your friendliest enemy reminding you to take it easy...

...and never volunteer for anything.

If we stay, we'll be up to our necks.

-I've got it all decoded, sir. -Read it.

Yes, sir. "One, original bridge works reported abandoned.

New construction downstream from first site.

Two, enemy intends to open railway with passage of special train...

...Bangkok for Rangoon with troops and V.l.P.

Estimated to arrive target, a.m. 13th.

Three, synchronize demolition with passage this train.

Four, good hunting. Have fun." That's all, sir.

A train and a bridge!

Yes, sir. Can we get there in time, sir?

Yai says we're two to three days' march from the Kwai.

If we set a faster pace, we could make it before sundown on the 12th.

It's worth it for the train.

Oh, by all means. Good hunting. Good show.

Jolly good fun. Jolly, jolly good.

If you hadn't fixed the radio, we wouldn't know about the train.

Well, there's always the unexpected, isn't there?


Heave! Heave!

-Half a pint, sir. -Quinine.

Well, we'll complete this later.

-Clipton, we're facing a crisis. -Yes, sir?

I spoke with Reeves and Hughes. We won't finish the bridge on time.

We just haven't the manpower.

I've asked the officers to lend a hand, but even that won't do it.

The officers are going to work?

I explained the situation and they volunteered, but it's not enough.

Why not ask Saito for some of his men?

This is our show. We must make the most of our resources.

That's what l came to talk to you about. The sick list.

There's not a man in this hospital who doesn't belong there.

Don't jump to conclusions. No reflection on you...

...but there are always a few malingerers.

Be honest. Keep an open mind is all I ask.

Come along, let's see.

Don't move, don't move.

What's the matter with Haskins?

He's got amoebic dysentery and blackwater fever. Temperature of 1 04.

Right. I see.

And this man?

Leg ulcers. l may be able to save the leg if I do more cutting tonight.

Really want to send him out to work, sir?

Don't talk rot, Clipton.

-And that man there? -His arm's infected.

Most of their wounds won't heal properly.

I wonder, in his case, if fresh air and light duties...

...might do more good than being cooped up.

-Light duties? -lt's not our policy to keep a man...

-...just because he scratched his arm. -Not our policy?

Well, is it?

A man may not be on top of his form, but he can still make himself useful.

Trimmings and finishing jobs. Stand easy, Baker.

Tell me, you feel up to doing a little light work on the bridge?

-Anything you say, sir. -Good show.

What about you? Nothing difficult.

-I'll try, sir. -Good man.

Now, look here, men. lt goes without saying I'm proud of all of you.

But we're facing a crisis. For those of you who feel up to it... about lending us a hand? Fetch and carry, paint here and there?

What do you say?

-Yes, sir. -Good show. Come on, follow me.

Ten minutes.

Make sure they're all dead.

Come on, Joyce.

Use your knife, man, or we'll be shooting each other.

Go that way, Joyce.

I could have done it. l was ready.

Are you hit, sir?

Let's go.

It's superficial. Maybe a chipped bone, but there's nothing broken.

-lt's my fault, sir. -Oh, shut up, Joyce.

I can walk on it. That's all that counts.

Yeah, but how far and how fast?

We won't know that till I've tried it, will we?

What are you doing?

I didn't give orders for a halt.

We all need it.

We're still five hours' fast march from the objective.

Maybe six.

Come on.

You keep walking on that foot, you'll bleed to death.


-You're gonna leave me here. -If you stop, we stop.

You can't study the layout of the bridge after dark.

You've got to get there before sundown.

But, sir, when the job's done, who knows if we can return by this route...

...or whether we could find you if we did?

If you were me, l wouldn't hesitate to leave you and you know that.

He doesn't know it, but I do.

You'd leave your own mother here if the rules called for it.

You'll go on without me. That's an order.

You're in command now, Shears.

I won't obey that order.

You make me sick with your heroics.

You carry the stench of death like the plague.

Explosives and L pills go well together.

It's one thing or the other. Destroy a bridge or destroy yourself.

This is just a game, this war.

You and that Colonel Nicholson, you're crazy with courage. For what?

How to die like a gentleman, how to die by the rules...

...when the only important thing is how to live like a human being!

I'm not gonna leave you here to die, Warden...

...because I don't care about your bridge or about your rules.

If we go on, we go on together.

Good old Yai.

I'm all right.

Come on.

Let's get closer.

Still sorry we brought you along?

-Feeling better? -Yeah.

You're in command again now, you know.

Thank you, major.

I can't understand it. It's such a solid, well-designed job.

Not like the bridges the enemy usually throws together.


Those poor devils down there.

Imagine being forced to build that in the condition they must be in.

They've got a British officer working on his knees.

The Japanese seem to be enjoying it too.

If he knew we were here, it might boost his morale a little.

If not for the train, we could set a time fuse and be miles away.

Since we don't know what time it'll cross tomorrow...

...we'll have to do the job manually.

We'll set the charges against the piles...

...about three feet under the water, I should think...

...and run the main wire downstream to the plunger.

The problem is where to hide it.

Our side of the river is quite obviously used by the Japanese.

They'd spot it at once.

Look. Do you see those fallen tree trunks?

And the grey rock just below them on that little beach?

-Yes, sir, l see them. -That's our key position.

It's on the wrong side of the river...

...but it's the only hiding place within feasible distance.

As soon as the bridge goes up...

...whoever's there will have to swim back.

It's not likely to be a pleasant swim.

Sir, l was the best swimmer in my course.


It looks like your line of country, then.

Thank you, sir.

Shears, pick a spot on our side of the bank where you can cover Joyce.

Yai will be with you so you can occupy the Nips...

-...if they make any trouble for Joyce. -Right.

On the theory that there's always one more thing...

...I'll set up the mortar here to create an additional diversion.

Perhaps I might even take a few potshots at the train.

All clear?

Any questions? Right, we'll start as soon as it's dark.

They're sure to have sentries on the bridge... you'll have to float the stuff down from upriver...

...which means building a raft.


Yai will take three women to help you build the raft.

One will stay here with me. All right, now get cracking.


You know, if it wasn't for my ankle, I'd take Joyce's assignment.

I know.

You think he'll be all right?

I think so. Want me to handle it?

I'd let you stay up here with the mortar if l could.

I'm sorry.

When it's over, I hope you get that medical discharge...

...and not the hard way.




Yes, beautiful.

A first-rate job.

I had no idea it would turn out so well.


A beautiful creation.

I've been thinking.

Tomorrow it will be 28 years to the day that I've been in the service.

Twenty-eight years in peace and war.

I haven't been at home more than 1 0 months in all that time.

Still, it's been a good life.

I love India.

I wouldn't have had it any other way.

But there are times...

...when suddenly you realize you are nearer the end than the beginning.

And you wonder....

You ask yourself...

...what the sum total of your life represents...

...what difference your being there at any time made to anything...

...or if it made any difference at all, really.

Particularly in comparison with other men's careers.

I don't know whether that kind of thinking's healthy...

...but l must admit I've had some thoughts on those lines...

...from time to time.

But tonight....



I must be off.

The men are preparing some sort of entertainment.


I'm sure l speak for all of us...

...when I say this has been a most enjoyable evening.

As you know, most of you move on tomorrow... a new camp and new construction.

It's a pity you won't be here to see the first practical use of this bridge.

However, you'll be glad to know that the completion...

...of this link in the railway...

...will enable us to transport the sick and disabled... the new camp by train.

Colonel Saito has kindly permitted me to stay behind...

...with Major Clipton and the sick men...

...and we'll rejoin you in a few days' time.

Now that your work here is finished...

...l suppose many of you feel somewhat let down.

That's quite understandable.

It's a very natural reaction.

But one day, in a week, a month, a year...

...on that day when, God willing, we all return to our homes again...'re going to feel very proud of what you have achieved here... the face of great adversity.

What you have done should be...

...and l think will be... example to all our countrymen, soldier and civilian alike.

You have survived with honor.

That, and more.

Here in the wilderness... have turned defeat into victory.

I congratulate you.

Well done.

To the king.

And you're in business.

Now, you got everything? Sten, ammunition, pack, canteen, knife.


I'll be directly across the river.

The professor says there's always one more thing to do.

I can't think of what it could be.

Except to wish you a long and happy life.

Thank you.

What's happened?

The river's gone down.

You can see the wire.

The charges!

Don't wait for the train.

Do it now!

If Saito is correct, the train should be along in five or 1 0 minutes.

If you don't mind, I'll watch from up on the hill.

Why? You'll get a better view from the bridge.

It's hard to explain, sir. I'd rather not be a part of it.

As you please. Honestly, sometimes I don't understand you at all.

Well, as you once said, sir, I've got a lot to learn about the army.

Good morning.

River's gone down in the night.

What's he doing?

Colonel, there's something rather odd going on.

I think we better have a look around before that train comes across.

He's gone mad.

He's leading him right to it.

Our own man!

I was right. There is something going on.

You've got to do it, boy. You've got to do it now.

Colonel, have you a knife? I've just realized the bridge has been mined.


Good boy!

Officer, sir. British officer. Here to blow up the bridge.

-Blow up the bridge? -Yes, sir. British commando orders.

-Blow up the bridge? -Yes, sir. There's no time!

No, no! Help!


Kill him! Kill him!

Let me go, sir! You don't understand, sir!

Kill him! Kill him!


Kill him, Joyce! Kill him!


What have l done?


I had to do it.

I had to do it. They might have been captured alive.

It was the only thing to do!