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Overall Rating

Awesome: 36.67%
Worth A Look53.33%
Average: 6.67%
Pretty Bad: 3.33%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 24 user ratings

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Bridge Too Far, A
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by MP Bartley

"More stars than a clear midnight sky over the Atlantic."
4 stars

HBOs Band of Brothers is arguably the greatest mini-series ever made, but it was only on my second viewing of it that I began to fully appreciate the vast range of characters and their different stories. There are so many characters involved that it takes at least two viewings to remember each and every one and what they are doing. A Bridge Too Far has the same problem and solves it by casting a major star in practically every conceivable role. Made in 1977 the only person apparently too busy to pop us a GI is Woody Allen.

September 1944 and the Allies are full of confidence after the success of the Normandy landings. In an attempt to end the war early, they launch Operation Market Garden, an ambitious plan to take the war to the heart of Germany and destroy its industrial centre. This plan involves landing thousands of paratroopers into Holland and capturing a series of bridges which will lead them straight into Germany - a plan that as we all know would ultimately prove fruitless, due to bad intelligence, bad luck, bad weather and the simple fortunes of war.

It's a grand plan, involving both US and UK troops and a huge range of Colonels, Brigadiers and Generals, and to help us keep track of who's who and who is doing what where, Richard Attenborough has gathered together a cast including (deep breath)... Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Ryan O'Neal, Anthony Hopkins, Gene Hackman, Denholm Elliot, Dirk Bogarde, Edward Fox, James Caan, Elliott Gould amongst many others. It's an astonishing cast, but eventually proves to be the films biggest flaw with the guess-who's-popping-up-next game (look, it's Robert Redford come to save the day! Look, Laurence Olivier is a doctor!) becoming a side show that distracts from the films integral narrative. It's also ironic that the most affecting segments of the film - a subplot revolving around a Dutch family of spies - are the segments populated by a group of relative unknowns. With such a huge cast, no-one really takes a leading role as such, although there are two that manage to elevate their material into something more than simply sufficient. James Caan as Seargeant Eddie Dohun has the demeanour and look of a grizzled GI anyway and superbly conveys the dehumanising effect of war in just two scenes. Anthony Hopkins meanwhile, as Lieutenant Colonel Frost is excellent as a leader trying to keep his dignity in the face of unsurmountable odds, and rapidly disintegrating shelter as he tries to hold a town and a bridge against the retaliating Germans. It's Gene Hackman as the Polish Colonel Sosabowski however, that draws the short straw. It's not so much that he's bad (is he ever?), but ultimately he's Gene Hackman as a Pole and it sits as uneasily as any major star attempting a European accent.

With such a distinguished cast and an epic story to tell, it's a surprise that Attenborough falls back onto stereotypes to tell the story, with all the British being stiff upper lipped tea drinkers, and the Americans being mouthy, angry mavericks. A Bridge Too Far also serves itself up as evidence for the old argument about historical accuracy. Here, it's the storming and taking of a particular bridge under massive German fire that is attributed to the Americans, whilst it was actually a British operation. America taking the credit for others actions is nothing new here, and certainly wouldn't be the last time it happened, yet let us not forget that the none more British Attenborough is directing, and it's not just an American trait - David Lean doing the reverse credit taking in some of his films too. Perhaps the lesson to take from A Bridge Too Far is that all soldiers, whether they be taking a bridge, or defending themselves valiantly from tanks, are all capable of the same bravery irrespective of nationality.

What Attenborough does do splendidly, as he did on Oh! What a Lovely Way and would repeat on Gandhi is show how he can paint a story on a huge canvas, yet retain the humanity of the piece. Operation Market Garden is a vast and complex mission, yet Attenborough and screen writer Goldman, marshall the various strands superbly, never getting lost in the details, whilst never simplifying either. More importanly, they don't lose focus on the ground troops involved. While it may be the stunning sight of hundred of paratroopers blooming into the sky, or a seemingly suicidal river cross in broad daylight under the noses of the Germans that capture our attention at first, it's the little details that resonate. The punishment meted out for a court martial offence for example, or a crazed dash into sniper territory to rescue a relief package that ends with the bitterest of punchlines.

The battle scenes are vivid, with a frenetic and violent energy that Spielberg nods to in Saving Private Ryan, and Geoffrey Unsworth's photography is rich and mesmerising. It's a shame then that we never feel that any of the major stars are ever in true danger - another drawback of not having some less familiar faces occupying some of the bigger parts.

Despite the fact that A Bridge Too Far is constructed with a healthy does of patriotism, it should not be forgotten that this is essentially a war film about valiant failure, and it ends on a poignant, yet stirring, note. If battles are won on bravery, courage and determination then they are also lost by an inability to cross a few feet of water, wrong batteries for radios and the unpredictability of the weather. They are details that no General can predict, and A Bridge Too Far is an absorbing and thrilling overview of the minutiae that go into every campaign.

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originally posted: 06/05/07 18:55:54
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User Comments

6/11/19 jason way 2 long and boreing 2 stars
6/07/19 Anne A great movie yet too long; 2/3 of the way thru I changed channels 4 stars
3/21/17 Ed Riddick 4 stars mostly for brilliant production and historical value. Doesn't quite make it. 4 stars
11/28/16 Simon Brits rule! 5 stars
8/04/14 Sheri Glover An epic made personal through small moments 4 stars
5/15/12 Ed Totleben, Jr. About as accurate a war movie as ever made. 5 stars
3/06/12 action movie fan terrific proguction and special effect and battles but too long 3 stars
3/15/09 brian Quite a spectacle but oddly uninvolving 4 stars
3/12/09 Ryan_A Fantastic film, great cast. 5 stars
4/17/08 nfr best film ever made!!!script,castdirecting acurracy,it has it all! 5 stars
3/08/08 Pamela White great war film true with much artistic license 4 stars
10/01/06 albert b exellent film 4 stars
6/17/05 JH Best WW2 movie ever. 98% historically correct. 5 stars
1/29/05 Dan Great! 5 stars
6/15/04 Gerry Ditrich one of the finest WWII epics ever, some sloppy moments but a great movie 5 stars
6/07/04 John great cast counts for a lot - but this must be the most boring war movie ever made 3 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum My God, the cast 4 stars
6/19/02 R.W. Welch Competent account of the WWII fiasco but needed some tightening up. 4 stars
1/15/02 Murray Castles Very good. Good and honest view of the famous battle. 5 stars
2/04/01 Avenger Girl Long, boring war epic..lots of blood and gore. Could be re made 4 stars
11/29/00 Cristopher Revilla great wwII movie, see it!!!! 5 stars
11/06/00 F.W. The best WWII movie ever. What a cast! What a story! What a score! 5 stars
10/24/00 Gremlin One of the BEST WWII movies ever. All star cast,KICK ASS MOVIE 5 stars
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  17-Jun-1977 (PG)
  DVD: 25-Oct-2005



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