Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Bridge on the River Kwai - plot hole in the ending


Recommended Posts

> {quote:title=SansFin wrote:}{quote}

> > {quote:title=apmarina wrote:}{quote}

> > After watching it again on TCM last night, I want to ask about something that has puzzled me for years: After the bridge is blown, Warden (Jack Hawkins) says to the women, "I had to do it. I had to do it. They might have been captured alive. It was the only thing to do." I've seen references that indicate he shot Joyce and Shears, but that makes no sense.

>

> I believe the answer is twofold.

>

> He had to shoot at Japanese even though he might hit his own men. He could not risk the Japanese reaching the plunger and removing it.

>

> He also could not allow those men to be taken alive. The fear was not they would talk. It was widely believed a saboteur or spy not protected by Geneva Convention would be slowly tortured to death. Suicide or being shot by friends was thought better than weeks of pliers, blowtorchs and skinning knives.

 

 

I have not yet seen this movie (I have it DVR'd to watch after school is out next week--ah! summer vacation!) but I think your explanation makes sense, Sansfin. I have read that the Japanese looked on POWs as the very lowest of low-lifes becaue you were supposed to kill yourself rather than ever surrender. They treated POWs very badly, torturing and working them to death (literally). I also think that Japan had not signed the Geneva accords at the time of WWII, but I could be wrong.

Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=SansFin wrote:}{quote}

> . Suicide or being shot by friends was thought better than weeks of pliers, blowtorchs and skinning knives.

 

You forgot about the splinters of bamboo, shoved under the fingernails, and then lit on fire. That's long been my favorite...

Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=ValentineXavier wrote:}{quote}

> > {quote:title=SansFin wrote:}{quote}

> > . Suicide or being shot by friends was thought better than weeks of pliers, blowtorchs and skinning knives.

>

> You forgot about the splinters of bamboo, shoved under the fingernails, and then lit on fire. That's long been my favorite...

 

My favorite is the death of a thousand cuts. It was used in China for nearly one thousand years. A person might live for days as fingers, toes, hands, feet, arms and legs are carefully amputated. It is said some executioners were so good they could cut through spine and hold up person's head letting them see what was left of them before neck was severed.

 

I have tiny knife said to be used to cut off eyelids of murderer in 1843. It was graduation present.

Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=SansFin wrote:}{quote}

>

> I have tiny knife said to be used to cut off eyelids of murderer in 1843. It was graduation present.

 

 

Ouch! I think I'm glad I didn't go to that school!

Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=ValentineXavier wrote:}{quote}

> > {quote:title=SansFin wrote:}{quote}

> >

> > I have tiny knife said to be used to cut off eyelids of murderer in 1843. It was graduation present.

>

> Ouch! I think I'm glad I didn't go to that school!

 

A professor used it as threat for anyone who fell asleep in class. I did several times my first term. He retired same year I graduated. He said I was first person to sleep through his class and still graduate. There was article in newspaper when he gave it to me. He wanted me to return to teach there and use it as he did.

 

I had jeweler make mounting so I wear it as pendant. Handle hangs down and blade is in crystal locket so it can be seen and taken out. I have habit of fingering it when upset. It makes men nervous. :)

Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}

> Several people have commented about this before, because it doesn't make any sense.

 

It makes perfect sense: Shears and Joyce weren't in uniform, and were, therefore, subject to be treated as spies if captured by the Japanese. That the Japanese would execute them is a foregone conclusion, but Warden's concern was that they'd be tortured first. Beyond the details they might reveal about the operation of Colonel Green's secret commando unit, Warden viewed that as a fate far worse than death, and felt that killing them with mortar fire would be a more swift and merciful end.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It makes sense. But I think the main reason he was firing was to stop the Japenese soldiers from reaching the plunger. Everything happened so fast once Col.Nicholson {Alec Guinness} started trying to disconnect the plunger and him yelling at Col Saito for a knife, that all Warden probably though of was stopping the soldiers from reaching and disconnecting it. It would have been brutal for the men to be captured , but Warden was a soldier and all he could think of was the mission. That and only that was his reason for firing in the mens direction. If he was able to prevent them from being taken, all well and good, but his main and only reason at that point in time was the success of the mission........

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Japanese didn't need to get to the plunger; they merely had to cut the wires leading to it, and those stretched for hundreds of feet, making it easy. A bigger problem is that, according to the late World War II historian Stephen Ambrose, wires -- those for communication or demolition -- are the first things that get cut -- accidentally -- in battle, By opening fire, Warden threatened his whole operation, as any of the explosions, even if if they weren't direct hits, might very well have made it impossible to blow up the bridge.

 

The same lack of understanding of this simple fact made the climax of Spielberg's SAVING PRIVATE RYAN equally, if not more, implausible: instead of blowing up the bridge that's the Germans' objective, Ryan (Matt Damon) talks Miller (Tom Hanks) into merely mining the bridge before the enemy arrives. They then stay to fight the Germans so that the bridge will not have to be blown and, therefore, available for the advancing American troops' use. This is, of course, utter lunacy as it's clearly a suicidal course of action. Moreover, because once battle commences between Miller's squad and the overwhelmingly superior German force, the lines to the explosives under the bridge will likely be damaged and unaccessable for repair as long as they're engaged in a firefight.

 

This all but guarantees that the Germans will gain their objective, the bridge, which will remain intact for their use. Had he survived the fight, Miller deserved to be court-martialed for such a severe and egregious course of action, since it also resulted in the needless loss of several of his men in a fight it was obvious they could not win.

 

There are other deeply, insanely illogical things about this movie. Its opening Normandy landing sequence is a justifiably brilliant and harrowing tour de force of filmmaking, but the rest of the movie is absolute B.S.

Link to post
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=Mogul-o-maniac wrote:}{quote}

> A bigger problem is that, according to the late World War II historian Stephen Ambrose, wires -- those for communication or demolition -- are the first things that get cut -- accidentally -- in battle,

 

That is perfectly true for battles, but what happened in *TBotRK* wasn't a battle: it was a skirmish. Lines (both communication and demolition) quickly fall in a battle because of the high volume of ordnance and the movement of large bodies of troops. Neither was present in the movie. While a wire could be severed by a stray bullet or mortar shrapnel, the odds against it are very high.

 

Also, if the charges were properly wired, the loss of one would not affect the others -- you don't run them in series.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that possibly, surviving D-Day veterans might chose to differ with you, as you were definitely not there. Many, illogical and perhaps downright stupid things were done in the heat of battle. It doesn't alter the fact that this story is reputed to be true. So, why bother to nit-pick? It is, after all a movie, and a great one at that.As for the ending of BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, why worry so much about the accuracy of picayune and arcane little factoids regarding mines and/or charges attached to the bridge. David Lean was a vivid and brilliant image-maker. He couldn't possibly have known everything about blowing up a bridge. The imagery is important, and that's all. Best, BruceG.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Jack Hawkins? statement at the end doesn?t make any sense.

 

He carried out the entire dangerous project to secretly load the bridge up with explosives, run a long wire to a plunger, and then blow up the bridge. After Guinness discovers the wire, Hawkins sends men down to the river to push the plunger, then why would he blow up his own men whose job was to push the plunger? To save them from ?a fate worse than death?? That?s what doesn?t make any sense.

 

He didn?t need to say anything at all at the end. He was firing the mortar at the Japs, not his own men. So it doesn?t make any sense for him to say something about how he was trying to kill his own men. Their whole project was to blow up the bridge.

 

I don?t remember anyone noticing this oddity about what he said when the film was originally released. I read it for the first time here on this board, then I went to YouTube and watched the end again, and sure enough, what he said to the girls at the end makes no sense.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Whoa! If you think that SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is based on a true story (besides the fact that there were, during the war, multiple brothers from a couple of families killed in combat), then you're laboring under a tremendous misapprehension.

 

The incidents depicted in Spielberg's film are 100%% fiction, including the extremely fanciful (and dramatically superfluous) scene in Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall's office, when he decides to risk the lives of a whole squad of soldiers by sending them on the proverbial wild-goose chase looking for the surviving Ryan brother. In reality, there was no such mission ever undertaken by the Army or any of the other armed services, for the all-too-obvious reasons that men get killed in war, and that while two or more from the same family dying may be unfortunate, it really won't affect morale, either among the troops or on the home front. What will affect morale is news of other, unrelated soldiers' lives being risked and maybe wasted in a pointless hunt for surviving siblings of the dead.

 

As I wrote earlier, most of the movie is B.S., from its combat tactics to the fact that Miller's squad walk far to closely together in enemy-held territory, thereby making it much easier for German snipers or an opposing force to kill them all quickly. (Just as a point of reference, Dale Dye, whom Spielberg employed as his technical advisor, and who makes a living in that role, never held a combat command in his years in the Marines.)

 

When the Sullivan brothers were all killed in a torpedo attack on the USS Juneau in 1942, the Navy changed its regulations to prohibit the assigning of siblings to the same vessel to reduce the chance that a family would lose more than one child. It's all they could do. The fact remains that the Sullivans all died, yet we went on to win the war, anyway.

Link to post
Share on other sites

apologies, Sprocket man. I wasn't denegrating your superior knowledge of the war, I was merely trying to pont out that movies, are, after all, merely entertainment. I suppose, Hanks vindicated himself somewhat by being involved in the far superior BAND OF BROTHERS, which was based on Stephen Ambrose's book.Nothing malicious was intended. I'm only a humble Canadian whose nation's involvement in D-Day may not have been on the scale of your country, but we did do our part, to the best of our abilities.Best, BruceG.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 years later...

About Warden’s line to the women porters, "I had to do it! They might have been taken alive!," which has caused a lot of confusion: 

The line only makes sense if "they" refers to the other members of his commando team, Joyce and Shears. And it is plural, so it refers to both of them. It does not refer to Nicholson or anyone else.

 

For the statement to make sense, it is NOT necessary that Warden have actually killed Joyce and Shears with the mortar. We know that Joyce is dead and Shears is dying or dead, but at his distance Warden has no way of knowing if they are dead or alive, all he knows is that they have been shot down by the Japanese.

 

The statement only makes sense if Warden directed the mortar at Joyce and Shears. In fact, he does. This is subtle. The first mortar shot is directed toward the Japanese soldiers coming to reinforce Nicholson. But the second is directed further downstream, closer to where Joyce and Shears are lying. What the audience sees is that it knocks over Nicholson and another Japanese soldier. (The audience is watching Nicholson, wondering whether he will try to press the plunger himself, and whether he will make it.) What the women see is that Warden directs the shot at his two fallen comrades. Warden has entirely lost interest in the bomb, he just wants to make sure no member of the team is taken alive. "Madness" indeed. And the move was apparently effective. If you look carefully, you'll see that before the second mortar shot, Shears is still moving in the water. After the shot, he is still.

 

So the statement makes sense. But cinematographically it is subtle, too subtle. You have to fault to directors for leaving audiences confused. The second shot should have landed closer to Joyce and Shears and more visibly disturbed their bodies.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
© 2021 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...