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A Bridge Too Far

Movie still

Director: Richard Attenborough
Screenwriter: William Goldman
Starring: Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Edward Fox
Release details: MGM, UK/USA 1977, 176mins
Full details: IMDb
Genre: War
Rating: Not rated

In late 1944, the allied advance through Europe was beginning to slow and it became essential to strike a blow against the Germans with such strength that they would be forced back and the allies would be able to occupy the sea ports so vital to their supply. Operation Market Garden was formulated to carry out the required strike, and A Bridge Too Far tells the tale of the epic attack.

The cast list for the film reads like the guest list for any Hollywood party or awards ceremony of the late 70s, and it is this myriad of talent, combined with Attenborough's direction and the skill of the writer which makes the film so successful. At just short of three hours' run time, this is not a film for the casual viewer but, given the complexity of the tale, it could not have been made shorter, nor would it have benefitted in any way from extensive paring.

The film admirably conveys the confusion of Market Garden by following the exploits of various figures involved, from the overall commander, General Browning (Bogarde) down to the rank and file soldiers, notably American sergeant Dohun (Caan), as well as the ground troops under General Horrocks (Fox) and the Dutch resistance. It also benefits from a fair portrayal of the German forces as soldiers doing their jobs, but above all as humans and not monsters. None of the characters involved are more important than any of the others, and it is probably for this reason that the credits are in alphabetical order, no one actor is the "star" of the film, they all are.

Between Goldman's writing and Attenborough's direction, the result is not only a visually stunning film but also an extremely accurate one. Attention is paid to the uniforms and vehicles, and many of the actors bear an uncanny physical resemblance to their real-life counterparts. The minutae of the history are also accurately portrayed in the film, and it could quite easily have been a documentary rather than a box office movie. Given the tendency of Hollywood to twist history to fit a good story it is refreshing to watch a film of this calibre. Perhaps the writers of such films as Braveheart and The Patriot should take notice of A Bridge Too Far's long life. The fact that four languages (English, German, Dutch and Polish) are used only adds to the film's credibility.

Caine excels as Colonel Joe Vandeleur, leading the ground attack against the German lines in a race to link up with the airborne forces. He plays (as he so often does) an archetypal Englishman, getting down and doing his job as well as he can. When asked by Horrocks if he thinks he'll manage to break through the enemy lines he smiles and replies "I have nothing else planned for this afternoon." Sheer class.

I'd like to be able to say something bad about A Bridge Too Far, but the only thing I can think of is the length, and even that just flies by since the film never stops to rest, there are no convenient tea-making moments, it just keeps going. This might not be everyone's favourite war film, but if it isn't in their personal top ten then they haven't seen it.

Contributed by guest reviewer: Ed Foxe

Trivia

The all-star cast also includes: Denholm Elliot, Elliot Gould, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Hardy Kruger, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O'Neal, Robert Redford, Maximillian Schell and Liv Ullman.

Links

I like Elliott Gould and elliottgould.com. Not to mention Gene Hackman.


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