The Bridge On The River Kwai 4K Ultra HD

Featured In Issue 261, May/June 2022

WSR Score5
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
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Mild war violence
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Single Side, Dual Layer (BD-66)
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David Lean
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Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1
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Based on the novel by Pierre Boulle and loosely based on a true World War II event, "The Bridge On The River Kwai" garnered seven 1957 Academy Awards® including Best Picture. Guinness plays Colonel Nicholson, a by-the-book, almost-crazed British colonel who leads POW's in building a railway bridge for the Japanese in Burma, while Holden and Hawkins are allied commandos sent out to destroy the endeavor. (Gary Reber)

Special features include Crossing The Bridge: Picture-In-Graphics Bonus View Track, "The Making Of The Bridge On The River Kwai" documentary (SD 53:03), The Steve Allen Show with William Holden and Alec Guinness (SD 06:30), The Premiere Narrated by William Holden (SD 01:50), "The Rise And Fall Of A Jungle Giant" featurette (SD 06:13), a USC short film introduced by Holden (SD 15:42), an appreciation narrated by filmmaker John Milius (SD 08:06), a photo montage, additional behind-the-scenes footage, theatrical trailers, up-front previews, and BD-Live functionality (Blu-ray) and a Movies Anywhere digital code.

The 2.55:1 1080p AVC 4K Ultra HD HDR10 picture, reviewed on a Sony Bravia Z9D 4K Ultra HD HDR display, upconverted to 2160p with greater resolution and luminance, was photographed on film in anamorphic Panavision® using the Panavision cameras and sourced from a 4K master Digital Intermediate format. The picture's 2.55:1 aspect ratio was seen for the first time on the anamorphically enhanced DVD reviewed in Issue 43 and Issue 45 (as a Limited Edition). Those DVDs, both from the same transfer, exhibited image quality that was absolutely improved over the LaserDisc reviewed in Issue 9. The smeared LaserDisc picture completely lacked definition, while fine detail on the DVD was noticed in backgrounds, on faces, as well as into the jungles, and the huts' grass rooftops. Viewed alone, the DVD picture looked pretty good, given the dated imagery. The Blu-ray's remastered 1080p AVC picture exhibits a significant improvement, with images that are sharper, with excellent detail, contrast, and shadow delineation. The Technicolor fidelity is nicely balanced, though, flesh tones can still appear slightly orange at times. Still, the transfer perfectly renders the earthen hues that depict the dusty terrain setting against which the British soldiers work amidst wooden and bamboo structures. The Japanese flag is an example of the bolder application of color that catches the eye. Resolution is superb, especially revealing in close-ups of facial features, clothing, and object textures. Still, the picture still looks dated in many scenes.

The new 4K Ultra HD edition is similar in picture quality to the Blu-ray with saturated colors and flesh tones that still appear slightly orange at times. HDR contrast is a bit more revealing of detail in black levels and shadows. Resolution also is improved. Still the film looks dated.

Source element artifacts and film grain are minimal and not objectionable. This is a cinematic picture that is solid and absolutely satisfying. One cannot imagine any fan of the movie being disappointed with the image quality. (Gary Reber/Suzanne Hodges)

The Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD 7.1-channel soundtract has been repurposed from the original monaural theatrical elements.

The DVDs featured a Dolby® Digital 5.1-channel soundtrack that was a remastering effort that provided both a nice restoration and at the same time a welcome update to current audio standards. The DTS-HD Master Audio™ 5.1-channel soundtrack faithfully represents the remaster. Although the recording is dated, fidelity is acceptable, taking into account the original soundtrack's age. Nonetheless, distortion and other artifacts associated with the vintage audio shine through. The music has some low-end augmentation via the .1 LFE, and is generally immersive with moderate surround envelopment. Sound effects are generally balanced toward the screen, with gentle atmospheric spread into the surrounds. Screen-based imaging is subtly yet noticeably wide, with seemingly new effects added to the original audio. The dialogue has no intelligibility issues, but fidelity is compromised and there is some distortion. The music is feebly stereophonic and seems to have been processed in the re-mastering for dimension. This lossless presentation elevates the sonics to a level of excellence not previously achieved.

The new repurposed Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD 7.1-channel soundtrack is similar in sound quality to the Blu-ray Disc, with the addition of two extra surround channels and the height layer.

The Immersive Sound element is comprised of the orchestral score and segments of jungle ambiance as well as nuanced din. Sound effects include a rain storm, wind, a gunshot, the man-powered fan, flock of birds, mortar fire, explosion and other sporadic sounds. Overall, though infrequent, the sounds in the height layer, when active, enhance the spatial dimensionality of the proceedings.

The overall result is more dimensionality making this the preferred edition. (Gary Reber/Perry Sun)