Monday, September 26, 2011

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

With the launch of the PlayStation 3 in 2006, Naughty Dog, Insomniac, and Sucker Punch began developing more mature titles for the current console generation. In 2007, just a year after the console's launch, Naughty Dog released Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. Similarly to Sucker Punch's Infamous, Uncharted contrasted with Naughty Dog's Jak and Daxter IP by crafting a third person shooter, but also by going for the feel of a Hollywood movie. The game received critical acclaim, leading to a sequel in 2009 and a third entry to be released this November. To build up to a review of that game, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, I will review the first two games starting with Drake's Fortune.

The story involves the protagonist Nathan Drake, essentially a modern day Indiana Jones, who finds the coffin of his ancestor Sir Francis Drake. Inside, he finds a clue that leads him to search for the legendary treasure of El Dorado. As he goes off to search for it he is accompanied by TV documentarian Elena, who also serves as his love interest, and his shady partner Sully. The narrative surrounding the events that follow is masterfully crafted, filled with plot twists, double crosses, and cliffhangers that are perfectly weaved into the game. I felt like I was invested in what was transpiring onscreen and the characters it involves, giving me more incentive to keep playing to find out what someone would do next.

What helps greatly with this is the graphics. For an early PS3 title, the game is still amazing to look at thanks to its heavy photorealism. From the lush and beautiful foliage to some incredible water flow and physics, the environment really contributes well to setting up the atmosphere of the game. Equally amazing are the range of expressions the characters can emote, especially in the cutscenes, assisted well by some great choices for voice acting. While the game may be almost four years old at this point, the effort put into it all helps it stand the test of time. From an overall graphical standpoint I would consider this game a landmark in what was possible at the time.

Thankfully, the gameplay manages to match the game very well, its design traits consisting of intense shootouts, well-done combat, light puzzle solving, and challenging platforming. While the guns are fun to use and control in the right ways, there is more of a focus on finding and moving between cover to stay alive. This helps to keep the player at the height of their senses, making them more aware of the three-dimensional plane around them. If an enemy gets particularly close, you can easily exchange fisticuffs with them, using timed button presses to gain even more ammo compared to simply shooting them. The AI is also pretty smart and challenging, but like with Duke Nukem II, it's the right level of difficulty that makes winning a firefight all the more satisfying once you outsmart their tactics. The platforming is also in the vein of Prince of Persia, with some slick animations and a more streamlined approach.

Since this game is very well constructed even now, I only had a couple of fairly minor complaints. When you get the chance to pilot a jet ski through tropical waters, it's an enjoyable change of pace but the controls felt off and sometimes it took the pace with it. The only other thing I found weird was the sudden genre shift close to the end of the game, which, while justified for the plot, felt odd to play through nonetheless.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a masterfully crafted gem from the dark early days of the PS3 worth playing even now. It knows what it's doing and definitely delivers on it, coming very close to feeling like an actual movie. If you have a PS3 and want to experience gaming to a new degree, go out and get this game (it should be fairly inexpensive by now). Next up is Uncharted 2, and I can't wait to see again how it improves on this already great package.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stubs - Eye of the Needle

EYE OF THE NEEDLE (1981) Starring: Donald Sutherland, Kate Nelligan, Christopher Cazenove. Directed by Richard Marquand. Screenplay by Stanley Mann. Based on the book by Ken Follett. Produced by Stephen Friedman. Run Time 118 minutes, Color. U.K. World War II, Drama, Thriller, Romance

Set during World War II, EYE OF THE NEEDLE follows two storylines. First it is the story of Henry Faber (Donald Sutherland), whose important position at the railway keeps him from national service. He seems like an affable, though lonely man, who lives in a boarding house and goes for a pint down at the local pub. But in reality, Faber is a Nazi spy. A German military officer, Faber is also known as the Needle. One is given to believe he got that name because of his favorite weapon, the stiletto, which we see him use over and over throughout the film.

Juxtaposed to Faber’s story is that of David (Christopher Cazenove) and Lucy Rose (Kate Nelligan). Newlyweds, married on the eve of David’s assignment, they have a terrible accident on the way to their honeymoon. Drunk and driving too fast, David drives off the road and crashes the car. The result is his paralysis from the waist down. He exchanges flying in the air force for tending sheep on Storm Island off the English coast. There they live a Spartan life with only their young son Jo (Jonathan Nicholas Haley) and the lighthouse keeper and helper Tom (Alex McCrindle) for company. While Lucy keeps a brave face, she is in fact miserable. David drinks too much with Tom and David and Lucy’s romantic life is down to zilch.

Faber, meanwhile, has been given the very important assignment of spying on General Patton’s Army, which the German military is convinced will be the lead force when the Allies invade Europe. Faber is told to find out what he can and to report back to the Fuhrer in person. A German U-boat will pick him up off the shore when he relays to them he is ready to be picked up. He is given two weeks to report back.

The truth is that Patton’s Army was a decoy and Faber takes photographs to prove the point and even with the authorities chasing him, manages to escape to Storm Island where his canal boat crashes in a storm. There he is rescued by the Roses. While Lucy nurtures him back to health, she also falls in love with him. And with her husband sleeping one of upstairs or at Tom’s, Lucy and Faber become lovers.

When David discovers the canister of photographs, he confronts Faber. And even though David puts up a heroic fight, he is no match for the stronger Faber, who throws him over one of the many cliffs on the island. Next Tom is also killed and Faber must wait for his next window to contact the U-boat, which waits for his signal between 6 pm to 6 am every day.

Faber tells Lucy that David is too drunk to come home, giving the two lovers another night together. The next day, when Faber goes to retrieve David, Lucy and Jo go for a walk on the island and Lucy discovers her husband’s dead body in the water. She is very upset, but when Faber gets back, he tells her that David is still too drunk to come home. Lucy knows something is up and bides her time to escape, even going so far as to have sex with Faber one more time, as if nothing is wrong.

When she gets her chance, Lucy grabs Jo and takes off towards Tom’s lighthouse, where there is the only radio on the island. Faber takes chase and even though her car gets stuck, Lucy manages to barricade her and Jo in the lighthouse. This is when she finds Tom dead as well.

Faber arrives and tries to gain entrance. Lucy does her best to stop him, even hacking his hand with an axe as he reaches in to undo one of the locks on the door. But Faber still gets in and while holding Jo hostage manages to contact the U-boat just before Lucy manages to short out the electricity. Faber must have feelings for Lucy, because he lets her live. And it is this act of “kindness” on his part that will lead to his own death.

Faber leaves the lighthouse and heads down to a row boat on the beach to get to the waiting U-boat. Lucy finds a handgun she had misplaced and takes chase. She shoots at Faber, but doesn’t stop him until he is in the row boat. With her last bullet, Lucy kills Faber and unknowingly saves the Normandy invasion.

A taught thriller, EYE OF THE NEEDLE has held up very well in the thirty years since its original theatrical release. While Donald Sutherland is great as Faber, it is really Kate Nelligan’s Lucy that holds the film together. She is the pivotal character, torn between the love for her impudent husband and the strong embrace from a virile stranger. A lonely young woman, who has never really been given a chance to enjoy life, Lucy rises to the challenge and single-handedly saves the world.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Batman: Arkham Asylum

In the year 2009, Rocksteady Studios released their second game ever, Batman: Arkham Asylum, to much commercial and critical acclaim. While I was largely unfamiliar with the overall Batman universe, I did find the game intriguing at the time and thankfully it did not disappoint one bit. Naturally I became excited by the idea of a sequel, Batman: Arkham City, currently slated for an October 19, 2011 release. In order to build up to this, here is my review of Batman: Arkham Asylum.

To begin, Arkham Asylum is not your average licensed video game. While it does draw a lot from the Batman name, the game uses that more to its advantage, rather than its detriment. It infuses years of comic book history with Victorian architecture to create a dark, mysterious, and sometimes frightening atmosphere unlike BioShock's dystopian city of Rapture. It's not just a set piece, it's an environment filled with immense attention to detail and structure so nicely done that you'd think it was real. The asylum manages to almost stand as a character in its own right, as the interior walls ooze with personality and help to subtly guide Batman to his destination.

With Joker at the reins, the many inmates and transferred Blackgate prisoners roam free at his command. The interesting thing about the enemies, and even the guards, is that like the rest of the game they don't feel like the run-of-the-mill cookie cutters found in most others. They are capable of converstaion, interacting with the environment, and even hinting at their own self-contained stories. Each new encounter also helps to show the kind of person Batman is and help him to figure out how to approach a given situation.

In some scenarios, Batman can display his "demon of the night" persona to the fullest by striking from the shadows and instilling fear into the hearts of his foes to the point where they can be easily taken out. In others he can show off his detective prowess by utilizing his high tech gadgetry to follow a DNA trail, or his (and your) skills of perception to solve all of the Riddler's riddles. The combat system is also one of the most well-crafted in gaming and it nicely shows off Bruce Wayne's true capabilities. With graceful counterattacks and the ability to use batarangs in a pinch, plus a satisfying finishing blow, the game makes the player feel a lot like the Dark Knight himself effectively.

Equally amazing and fun are all of the different gadgets Batman gains throughout the campaign. Similarly to Metroid, some areas are inaccessible until a particular item is obtained. The things you can discover in return however are well worth it, from the many character bios and challenge maps to several audio interviews that really gives the player insight into the villains and the history of the titular place. There is definitely a great incentive to continue exploring Arkham no matter how long you've been crawling through its vents.

While the plot is indeed interesting, it doesn't really go past the idea of Joker taking over Arkham Asylum. Still, this isn't a bad thing, as the game makes up for this greatly by delivering some truly stunning and unforgettable moments. These moments are very well done and continue to show us more about the world of Batman, including some clever nods to the comic book it's based on. I liked these, as it helped me get to know and understand the Batman universe a lot better than before I played.

What helps this game out greatly is the superb voice acting, featuring the return of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill in their respective iconic roles as the dark knight and the clown prince of crime. Some voice actors also reprise their voices from the 1990's animated series, such as Arleen Sorkin's Harley Quinn, but overall the characters are very well cast and bring out the most of their characters. Standout examples include Steve Blum as Killer Croc and Dino Andrade as The Scarecrow, both of which manage to make the villains they voice genuinely threatening, making their presence all the more powerful.

Sadly not every moment is great. In fact, the final encounter that the game builds up to the entire time is a bit of a letdown. I would agree that there was a rather odd yet interesting concept introduced that was squashed by Batman's own morality, leading to the worst boss battle in the game.

Thankfully, that's the only real complaint I have with the entire game. There is almost absolutely nothing wrong with the overall product, as it provides an experience absolutely anyone should play. Now let's see if Arkham City can top this and provide something even better.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

God of War: Betrayal

File:God of War Betrayal - promo image.jpg

After playing God of War: Chains of Olympus, I will review another, lesser known game in the saga of Kratos, God of War: Betrayal. Released in 2007 after God of War II, it is available to play on cell phones, depending on provider and model. Normally you'd think something like God of War would be heavily watered down to suit this platform, but I assure you it's quite the opposite.

Set between God of War II and Ghost of Sparta, Kratos, the new God of War, is framed for killing Argos, the pet of the goddess Hera (wife of Zeus). With Kratos on a rampage to find the real killer, Zeus sends the messenger Ceryx to stop the madness. While this doesn't seem like much of a story, it still fits into the overall continuity fairly well, providing an explanation for the events at the start of God of War II.

The weapons Kratos wields are carried over from the first God of War, namely the Blades of Athena, Blade of Artemis, Medusa's Gaze, and Army of Hades. Gorgon Eyes and Phoenix Feathers are again used to upgrade Health and Magic Meters, but this time you only need one of either in order for it to work.

The sounds in the game are, of course, limited but the visuals are surprisingly stunning for such a small screen. The game is a side-scroller, being made up of 2D sprites, but there's still a great abundance of detail featured. The gameplay for this installment is, as one can expect, quite different than its console counterparts, but somehow it remains fluid for what they are. Movement is made using either the arrow buttons or number pad, * is used to switch weapons, # is used to upgrade weapons on the fly, and OK is the jump button. While the ability to double jump remains intact, dodging is taken out, due to the limited capabilities of a cell phone. If your phone has a slide-out keyboard, the game will pause when you slide it open while the screen tells you to kindly slide it back in (I don't know if this also applies to models that flip open for a full keyboard, but I assume it does).

God of War: Betrayal is actually a good cell phone game. It has limitations of course, but it leaves a memorable experience and still manages to deliver in all the right ways; it even has some blood. This game isn't available for every provider or model, but if you are able, especially as a God of War fan, I suggest you download it whenever you can.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - A Worthy Mercenario

To conclude my build up for Assassin's Creed: Revelations, I will now look at Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Released in 2010, Brotherhood continues the adventure of Ezio Auditore after the events of Assassin's Creed II. I wasn't sure about how I would feel at first considering the fact that the game before had me hooked for days on end the first time, but thankfully I found myself enjoying Brotherhood, although not as much.

One thing to get out of the way first is that while playing, the major theme of leadership quickly becomes more prominent. The grand majority of the game takes place in Rome, which starts out under influence by the Borgia family. In order to heal the city, Ezio has to take out the captains of a dozen towers and then burn them to gain control of it. The more this occurs, the more rebellious the people will become and the more willing they will be to aid the Assassin cause. Rescuing citizens from guards during this period will allow you to take them under your wing as an apprentice, able to send them on missions across the continent to help make them stronger. As their level increases, they gain access to more powerful armor and weapons, gradually ranking up to become more like Ezio himself. These trainees can also be called forth in combat should the situation call for it, and thankfully they can hold their own solidly, even more so the stronger they became beforehand.

Speaking of combat, the way guards can be fought off is the single most significant improvement Ubisoft has made in this entry. Not only are guards more competent, implementing techniques such as sand throwing to make things more challenging, but the action overall is faster paced thanks to the new execution system. If Ezio strikes a single enemy enough to completely kill them, he can quickly leap over to the next nearest one, depending on weapon range, and kill them in a single hit regardless of armor or health. This not only looks cool, but is integrated very well, giving the player an incentive to switch their loadout occasionally just to see what sort of animations can be pulled off.

In addition, the game expands on the economy system introduced before by involving not just one small area, but all of Rome. Once the influence of the Borgia is lifted from a given area, Ezio can invest in renovating shops and tunnels and rebuilding aqueducts and landmarks, increasing the value of the city as well as allowing more opportunities to purchase on a whim. The effects of this extend to the people, with shops starting to bustle with more finely dressed individuals.

While there aren't too many story missions compared to the previous game, they are at the same time a lot more varied. Throughout most of them the player is forced to follow checkpoints to get to the end, which can seem somewhat like the game is on rails and yet not so simultaneously. However, they do help set up some amazing moments, such as Ezio being able to break into Rome's biggest stronghold. Just about every mission now includes a "Full Synch" opportunity, such as killing the target with a specific weapon, completing it within a time limit, or most commonly going without being detected. Not only does this add to the replay value of the title, but it gets first time players to work hard at the goal from the get-go. Equally good are some of the secondary missions, such as obtaining the Romulus Treasure, which is well worth the effort, or obtaining new weapons from Leonardo for more assassination and exploration options.

As for the story itself, it's shorter than Assassin's Creed II and a bit less interesting to watch unfold. While the leadership theme continues well until the end, it just simply doesn't seem as well thought out or complex like before. In fact, it's the characters that are more interesting to see, such as the devious and incestuous Borgia family. Desmond Miles also gets more screen time here, as the player gets to explore the world outside the Animus at any time to gain more insight on his side of the story. Overall, the story ends rather abruptly with a somewhat rushed lead-in to the next installment.

Now the important part of the series is the conspiracy angle, where nearly every historical figure on the planet is either an Assassin or a Templar. Between this and what comes out of the next part of The Truth, known as The Miracle by some, the mythology can get a little frustrating to figure out. It's almost as if Ubisoft is getting dangerously close to bathing themselves in this part of the series. I would actually like to see this conclude in future games, so I hope the studio decides to dial it down a little and make sure they don't make it more confusing than it really needs to be.

Finally, the only other flaw is the technical side of things. Just like with Assassin's Creed II, the graphics may be a welcome step forward, but the draw distance still suffers. Textures are much more consistent, such as grass staying only one way or buildings looking beautiful even from far away, and yet there is still some pop-up with the people. However, this is only minor, and I do praise the fact that this severely decreased.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is not only a great improvement from Assassin's Creed II, it manages to stand out as a separate game and not feel like an expansion pack. While it does feel more like the series is shifting toward more of an RPG focus, complete with item requirements, I would love to see where it all leads in Assassin's Creed: Revelations and beyond. If you haven't already played this game during the year it's been out, I suggest you do so now.

Friday, September 9, 2011

God of War: Chains of Olympus

File:God of War Chains of Olympus NA version front cover.jpg

In 2009, Sony released God of War Collection in anticipation for the then-upcoming game, God of War III. This collection packaged remastered versions of both God of War I and II on a single disk, allowing newcomers to experience the series for the first time before the release of the third game the following year. Later this month a similar collection, God of War Origins Collection, will feature similarly remastered versions of the PSP installments, God of War: Chains of Olympus and God of War: Ghost of Sparta, along with updated control schemes. To prepare for this new collection, I have decided to dust off my PSP to replay the first of the PSP games, Chains of Olympus, originally released in 2007.

A prequel to the first God of War, the story centers around Kratos as he seeks to take down Morpheus, the God of Dreams, who has enveloped the world in darkness after Helios' chariot falls from the sky. Or so you think. Halfway through the game, the story becomes about Kratos taking down Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, who wants to rule all of mankind with the help of a Titan, Atlas, who has been released from his chains in Tartarus. Not to worry, the first plot thread is resolved by the end, though the explanation seems a little offhanded.

Aside from that strange plot detour, the game is amazing. The visuals are good for an early PSP game and the environments are fairly detailed for its limitations. The cut-scenes are also good for an early game, and it's amazing to see it able to use high-quality clips from the first installment without fail. The soundtrack sometimes sounds kind of stock, yet somehow it fits perfectly, especially during battle, and really helps maintain the overall atmosphere.

Along the way, Kratos receives new weapons and magical abilities to aid him in his quest. Along with the Blades of Chaos, there is the ability to switch between them and the Gauntlet of Zeus, a powerful weapon handy for destroying shining objects and dealing mass amounts of damage when charged. Magical abilities include the Efreet, a spirit that burns enemies in a certain radius; the Light of Dawn, a long range attack in the form of spheres of light; and Charon's Wrath, an attack that can instantly deal heavy damage to a foe.

The controls are laid out pretty well for a PSP God of War game, and it's easy to switch between the aformentioned weapons and powers. However, since the system only has 1 Analog Stick, you must hold down both shoulder buttons in order to dodge with the stick. Aside from that mechanic, it seems well thought-out.

Another good aspect of this game is that we get to learn more about Kratos' personality. During the game, part of his mission is getting to be with his daughter Calliope again. Once he achieves this, things start to become worse, but he had given up his abilities. It is then that he must make one of the toughest decisions of his life and give up being with his daughter in order to save mankind. This shows that although he is essentially a rage factory, he is very selfless in his motives and is willing to make such sacrifices if it means helping the greater good.

Chains of Olympus may have a few shortcomings, but it's still a great entry in an epic franchise. It adds something to Kratos' backstory and it's nice to see how it connects with later games, such as why Atlas holds up the Earth in God of War II. With the PS3 remaster on the way, it's a good time to replay this game, if you (still) have it, until that comes out.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Stubs – The Bridge on the River Kwai

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957) Starring: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, James Donald, Ann Sears and introducing Geoffrey Horne. Directed by David Lean. Screenplay by Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson. Based on the book by Pierre Boulle. Produced by Sam Spiegel. Run Time 162 minutes, Color. U.S. and U.K. World War II, Drama, Action

Did David Lean ever make a movie that clocked in short of an epic run time? Clocking in at just under three hours, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI is long, but it is never dull. While I’m also a big fan of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962), there are definitely places where that film seems to be filling time. And the structure of BRIDGE provides a more defined beginning, middle and end that LAWRENCE doesn’t seem to have. This is a much more straight forward film in that respect.

There are two plots running simultaneously. The first involves Shears (William Holden), a Navy seaman who has copped the identity of a Commander hoping for better treatment as a P.O.W. He has been in Camp 16, run by Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) long enough to know how to game the system. Reminiscent of his character in STALOG 17, Holden trades with the guards, dead soldiers’ lighters for being on sick call or cigarette butts. Shears has one thing on his mind, escape and getting back to America. When the opportunity arises, Shears and two accomplices make a run for it. But only Shears survives. First, he stumbles to a native village which patches him up and gives him a boat. Second, when he can no longer paddle and the boat drifts out to sea, he is rescued by the British Navy.

Recuperating at a hospital in Ceylon as a U.S. commander and the privileges that provides him, Ann Sears playing the role Nurse, all Shears can think about is going home. He even has figured out what he will do when they discover his true rank, he’ll claim what we know as a section 8. Things seem to be going as plan and he is a couple of days away from going home when he is visited by Major Warden (Jack Hawkins) who wants to talk to him about joining Force 316.

Camp 16 is using P.O.W. labor to build a railroad bridge that will help link the Japanese railroad from Singapore to Rangoon. Saito has been having enough trouble getting the railroad completed when a new group of British prisoners arrive, thanks to the surrender of Singapore. Led by Lt. Colonel Nicholson (Alex Guinness), the new troops are to be treated as prisoners not as soldiers. Saito has contempt for the British who have surrendered rather than fight to the death.

And that is where the second plot takes place and it is a battle of wills between Saito and Nicholson. Saito, who is under a tight deadline to get the bridge completed. He demands that British officers be treated like the rest of the prisoners and do manual labor. But Nicholson refuses, citing the Geneva conventions. Saito doesn’t want anything to do with the code, so he punishes Nicholson and the other officers. But progress on the bridge is slow. The British soldiers do as bad of a job as they can and even manage to set production back. Saito at first blames the engineer in command and takes over the project personally. But progress is still slow and with the deadline approaching, Saito capitulates to Nicholson’s demands.

Nicholson, being a man of principal, champions the project as being a good morale booster for the men. He wants to show his captors what good work the English can do. He takes pride to a whole new level and becomes obsessed with the bridges’ construction. While still the titular head of the project and the commander of the camp, it is clear that Saito loses and cedes control of the project to Nicholson. His crew not only moves the location of the bridge but increases the workload on the men. He even goes so far as to have the officers help with the manual labor and recruits the sick and wounded prisoners to lend a hand. The result is that the bridge is completed on time and is a marvel to behold. While Nicholson celebrates the accomplishment, even putting a plaque on the bridge with his name on it, Saito goes about the steps to prepare for hari kari when the bridge is completed.

While Shears doesn’t want to go back to Camp 16, he is left with little choice. The British and the Americans have figured out what his true rank is, and the U.S. Navy has reassigned him to Warden’s Force 316. When he sees no way to avoid it, he volunteers to go. Rounding out their group are two more men, the supposed experienced Chapman, who dies when they parachute in behind Japanese lines, and the inexperienced Lt. Joyce (Geoffrey Horne). As they make their way to blow up the bridge, Warden gets shot when Joyce freezes before a Japanese soldier. Warden kills the soldier, but not before he gets shot in the foot. This of course, slows down their expedition and changes the roles each will assume. Warden for a time gives the leadership up to Shears, but he really doesn’t want it. Warden is not left behind as he wished, but is carried on stretcher when he can no longer walk.

The trio reach the bridge on the eve of it’s opening, when the first train will cross its trestle. Planting plastic explosives three feet below the water line seems sufficient, as does hiding the detonator across the river. However, overnight, the river recedes and some of the wiring is left exposed.

And it is this wiring that Nicholson sees on his last check of the bridge as the train is approaching. Bringing Saito with him, Nicholson goes down under the bridge and follows one of the wires straight to Lt. Joyce who is manning the detonator. There doesn’t seem to be a plan B in mind, as Warden and Shears want Joyce to explode the bridge, but he seems intent on waiting for the train. Joyce, who has always been slow to act, kills Saito, but can’t get through to Nicholson. While the two men struggle, Joyce is killed by Japanese fire. Warden shoots mortar at the bridge as a diversion and Shears swims across the river to kill Nicholson. Shears has come too far not to complete the mission. But he too is shot and killed, but not before Nicholson sees him. It is then and only then that Nicholson realizes the error of his ways and has the “What have I done?” moment, the film is famous for.

One of Warden’s mortar lands next to Nicholson, mortally wounding him. But Nicholson tries for a moment to shake off its effects. Stooping to pick up his cap, he is a proper British officer after all; he instead collapses, falling on the detonator, blowing up the bridge, just as the train starts across.

The acting in the film is great. Guinness won the Academy Award for Best Actor and Hayakawa was nominated for Best Supporting. Alec Guinness had, up until then, been considered a comedic actor, having worked in a series of comedies produced by the British Ealing Studios. These films include: THE LAVENDER HILL MOB (1951), THE LADYKILLERS (1955) and THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT (1951). He would work again with David Lean in such films as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (playing Prince Faisal) and DR. ZHIVAGO (1965) (playing Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago). Guinness is probably best known to the under forty crowd as Obi-Wan Kenobi, in the original STAR WARS (1980).

William Holden, who had been a star since GOLDEN BOY (1939), was at the top of his game when he appeared in BRIDGE, having won the Oscar the year before for STALAG 17 (1954). In addition to these films, he had also starred in SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950), for which he was nominated for an Oscar; BORN YESTERDAY (1950); SABRINA (1954) and THE COUNTRY GIRL (1954), LOVE IS A MANY-SLEPENDORED THING (1955) and PICNIC (1955), by the time he made BRIDGE. He would go on to star in such films as THE HORSE SOLDIERS (1959); THE WILD BUNCH (1969); THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974) and NETWORK (1976), for which he would be nominated again for an Academy Award. His last film was 1981’s S.O.B., a forgettable Blake Edwards comedy.

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. But it also won for Best Adapted Screenplay, an award originally given to the “screenwriter” Pierre Boulle, the author of the book it was based on. This is because the two men, who wrote the script, though not together, were on the Hollywood Blacklist. It wasn’t until 1984 that the Academy rectified the situation and gave the awards posthumously to Foreman and Wilson. And since then the credits have been updated to show these two men, not Boulle, as the screenwriters.

This film also made the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1997.

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI is an interesting psychological study and is a fun film to watch. Somewhat slow by today’s standard it makes up for it by having good writing, directing and acting, things few big budget films have these days. And unlike most current big budget films, the big explosion isn’t the only thing worth watching.