My father is not a big moviegoer, but there are a few films that he considers seminal viewing experiences for everyone. 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' is one of them, and when I was much younger, he repeatedly recommended the film to me as "the best he'd ever seen" until I finally watched it some time during high school. Whether I was influenced by him or not, I did really enjoy the film, but it was several years (and several more viewings) before I ever began to see or understand what it was that struck a chord so deeply with him, much less moviegoers and critics the world over.
Of course, tons of awards, huge box office numbers and of course my adolescent approval are not always accurate measures of a film's actual quality. And in the meantime, several theatrical and DVD releases have come and gone, culminating in Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's gorgeous new Blu-ray, which gives the film a clarity and luster that it may never have had, and bolsters arguments for its greatness with a fairly massive spate of bonus content. So the question remains: Is 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' as great a film as has always been considered? This week's "Shelf Life" aims to find out.