Summary: Chronicle of an Epic Failure.
Review: "A Bridge Too Far" (1977) is high budget "war reconstruction" movie and not the best of its class. This said, nevertheless an enjoyable film, it is done in the mold of its predecessors "The Longest Day" (1962) and "Is Paris Burning?" (1966).
The story, based on Cornelius Ryan's book, the same author of "The Longest Day", is constructed as a mosaic of scenes occurring at both sides of the confronting forces... Showing all the main actors in action, ranging from Generals and Marshals thru Privates to Civilians. Each national group speaks its own language, as in "The Longest Day", giving more realism to the story.
A disaster is always difficult to depict in earnest when you are part of the losing side. Something of this kind permeates thru the entire movie conspiring against its excellence.
The cast is a great collection of stars performing at their best. We may point out Sean Connery (true to his character), James Caan, Gene Hackman (outstanding), Robert Redford (praying on the boat), Laurence Oliver (civilian doctor immersed in a blood bathe) and thousand of extras.
Director Richard Attenborough has done a correct job, but not his best. He will give his real measure with "Gandhi" (1982).
Production effort is outstanding; battles are shown with detail and accuracy. The Paratroops drop, specially, is remarkable.
A good War film that deserves to be seen.
Reviewed by Max Yofre.
Summary: A GREAT WAR MOVIE
Review: "A Bridge Too Far" is like "the Longest Day", but of the 1970's.
Incorperating great actors like Sean Connery, Robert Redford, Michael Caine, and Anthony Hopkins, plus a few others.
This picture is a very accurate and graphic look on Operation Market-Garden, a plan that horribly failed, of the 3 original objective bridges that were to be captured only one was held. Of the 10,000 British Paratroopers of the 1st Airborne who jumped into Holland, only 2000 men came out battle ready. The division sustained 80% casualties. Montgomery called the plan 90% complete when the battle was over. Of course he was 100% wrong. He was a good general fighting Rommel in Egypt, but his career would never get any higher than that.
At some points in the movie, scenes get a little slow sometimes, but mostly it is about the Americans and British soldiers who sacrificed their lives in this little known operation.
Summary: War on an epic scope
Review: "A Bridge Too Far" reminds me of an Irwin Allen film. Allen, if you're not familiar with his work, made a bunch of epic disaster films in the 1970s packed to the rafters with big name stars. His "The Swarm" is a schlock classic that every lover of bad cinema should add to their must see list. In the case of "A Bridge Too Far," we're still seeing an all star cast disaster film, but this disaster took place during World War II when the Allies decided to stage a daring paratroop drop behind enemy lines. The idea was to knock Germany out of the war quickly by seizing several key bridges in Holland in quick succession and then send Allied forces directly into the Ruhr Valley, the heart of Germany's industrial base. If everything went according to plan, the Allies felt confident that the war would end by Christmas 1944. It was an audacious plan that ultimately failed due to a number of reasons--including bad weather and a failure to take into account the quality of German troops--and cost thousands of British and American lives. Richard Attenborough decided to make a film about the failed operation in the 1970s; the result is this nearly three hour film. Some people refer to this film as "A Movie Too Long," which I must admit is painfully true in some respects. A recent viewing exposed a number of flaws I missed when I watched this twenty years ago.
Operation Market Garden, the military name for this daring plan formulated by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, sent in the American 82nd and 101st airborne divisions along with the British XXX and 1st airborne to accomplish this complicated task. Unfortunately, military forces were unable to reach the bridge at Arnhem, the bridge too far, that would have led them into Germany. They bogged down instead thanks to a mass of German panzers that prevented British resupply and reinforcements. After nine days the remnants of the British forces pulled out and the operation ended. American troops took heavy casualties as well in their attempts to take a couple of other bridges. This is a short meatball summary of what occurred in Operation Market Garden that I pulled off the Internet in about five minutes. In reality, it's complicated stuff for the layperson to understand, and the movie doesn't make it very easy to follow along once the bullets start flying and the shells start exploding. Yet the film has its compelling points. Just the idea of attempting to recreate such a massive operation is so ambitious as to exhaust anyone even thinking about putting it on film. But Attenborough gives it the old college try. We should admire him for his efforts.
Think about all of the egos Sir Richard had to massage on the various sets. You've got Dirk Bogarde in the role of Lt. General Frederick Browning, the man in charge of setting up the massive operation. Sean Connery pops up as Maj. General Roy Urquhart, and we all know Connery isn't the easiest chap to work with. Edward Fox delivers a "win one for the Gipper" type speech to the troops as Lt. General Brian Horrocks, Elliot Gould overacts as Major Julian Cook, and Jimmy Caan orders a doctor to look at his wounded buddy in a way that would make Alan Alda weep with sympathy. Anthony Hopkins turns in a solid performance as Lt. Colonel John Frost, Laurence Olivier plays Dutch physician Jan Spaander, Robert Redford paddles up a river while taking heavy fire as Major Julian Cook, Michael Caine is Lt. Colonel Joe Vandeleur, and Ryan O'Neal is American Brigadier General James Gavin. My favorite performance comes from Gene Hackman in the role of Polish General Stanislaw Sosabowski. I groaned when I learned about his role beforehand, but Hackman does a great job playing a Pole. He's one of the few guys involved in the operation actually questioning the wisdom of what's going on. And his men eventually take casualties too when they attempt a night crossing over a river. Irwin Allen, eat your heart out!
"A Bridge Too Far" has some excellent battle reenactments. I have several favorites. The exchange between German tank and artillery placements with the Allies on the road to Arnhem is fantastic. They even send in a few planes to drop some bombs! When you listen to this on DVD with a great sound system, prepare to stuff some cotton in your ears. The British attempts to repulse the German tanks rolling in over that bridge look pretty darn good as well. I sure as heck wouldn't want to be that chap strolling across the bridge armed with an umbrella. That scene where the British soldier runs out to retrieve a supply pod dropped by a plane only to fall when struck by a sniper's bullet is one of many scenes that helps keep the film from losing emotional perspective. Aside from the combat sequences, I also appreciated the film's portrayal of the German side of the campaign. Instead of falling back on the old cinematic standby of showing any German in World War II as a raging megalomaniac, the movie tries to present a fair picture of how they countered the Allied attack.
Hmmm. Looking back at what I've written, I guess I have to say I enjoyed the film more than I thought. I'm still going to deduct a star for what I feel was a failure on the part of Attenborough to tighten the film through rigorous editing. I suspect he worried endlessly about what to leave in and what to leave on the cutting room floor since the omission of even one or two scenes could have thrown the whole film into confusion. But some stuff should have gone out the window. Too bad we only get a trailer as an extra...
Summary: Excellent depiction of Market-Garden but weak in parts
Review: "A Bridge Too Far" is the movie adaptation from the book of the same name. It tells the story of the planning and execution of Operation Market-Garden a combined airborne-ground operation to seize bridges over the Lower Rhine in Holland. The producers took great pains to ensure that authentic equipment and vehicles were used (some items were previously in museums in Belgium and Holland). Additionally, participants in the battles at Nijmegen, Arnhem and Oosterbeek were used as advisors during filming. The result is a fairly accurate look at the operation from both the Allied and German perspectives.
The use by the author, Cornelius Ryan, of personal accounts interlaced with conventional history was groundbreaking in its time. However, when adapted to movies these accounts gain more importance than they historically should have, due to "Hollywood's" use of box-office names to fill those roles. Overall, the movie is weak where the book is weak: Neither really goes to the source of failures in the operation: a badly constructed plan. The real problem of the distant drop zones at Arnhem was the loss of that "thunderclap surprise" that the Browning character briefs to his division commanders. In addition, Browning did not choose to pass on the latest intelligence concerning 2SS Panzer Corps in the area. Neither of these decisions are highlighted in the book or movie treatments. It was obvious during planning that there would be communications problems; this was not the surprise the movie depicts. The problem of tug and glider transport, hinted at in a few scenes, is not explored. For example, gliders/airlift aircraft were used up getting Browning's HQ deployed which did not have a real combat role (typically airborne forces come under the command of the ground forces commander once link-up is made). Having said all that, it is still a good depiction of the fighting and a good way to learn about Market-Garden, see the movie, read the book.
Summary: Great cast!, Great Story!,but a defective storytelling
Review: "A Bridge too Far" may not be the best war movie ever filmed, but what it lacks in fluidity and continuity, it makes up by an incredible cast. Michael Cain, Robert Redford, and Sean Connery give great performances. And without a doubt there are certain scenes that are extremely powerful and give us the impression of viewing a real life battle. Besides, it is a good way to see a side of the British Empire's contribution the WWII by an American Movie Studio.
Summary: A successful failure...
Review: - History -
Operation Market-Garden, begun in September 1944, was an Allied military campaign led by Montgomery, the senior British field commander, in the latter stages of World War II. While the Allies were still in France, a plan had to be formulated for making the major push into German territory, a difficult task, considering the Rhine River (one of the major rivers of the world) provided a natural defensive border with the majority of the German homeland. Planning offensive operations required taking this into account, and how the forces would cross the river and remain safe while doing so, rather than have bottlenecks that would make the forces easy targets.
While Patton was in the south, pushing through France on the backside of the old Maginot line, Montgomery hit upon an idea to seize a series of bridges across the various rivers that made up the geography of the Low Countries, all the way up to Arnhem, one of the northern-most major bridges across the Rhine, a bridge outside of German territory, but a good jumping-off point for invading northern Germany. His plan won approval, and in one of the largest military operations of the war, a major push was developed to secure the bridges. This had the largest airborne component of any battle in the war, as troops were airlifted and dropped into position around each bridge, charged to hold the bridges until ground forces pushed northward linking up logistic and defensive lines toward each spot.
Operation Market-Garden was actually two operations -Market was the airborne component; Garden was the ground component. It was meant to take the Germans by surprise (which it did) and exploit their disorganisation (which was, sadly for the Allies, not as severe as intelligence predicted). The Allies were stopped short of their primary military objectives (securing an 80-mile corridor of bridges) by some 25-30 miles. Hence the name of the film, derived from the book by Cornelius Ryan, 'A Bridge Too Far'.
- Film -
Cornelius Ryan's book was adapted for the screen by writer William Goldman and director Richard Attenborough, a leading director of British cinema, noted for such diverse films as Gandhi (for which he won an Oscar), A Chorus Line, Cry Freedom, and Shadowlands. Attenborough was nominated for a BAFTA directing award for 'A Bridge Too Far' in 1978. Attenborough is also well-known in front of the camera, too.
Attenborough brought together a monumental cast for this epic film, worthy of Cecil B. DeMille in scope and size. At just under three hours in length, it is as unrelenting as the combat scenes it depicts. While not matching the graphic realism of films such as 'Saving Private Ryan', it nonetheless does a good job at combining a look at grand strategies (from formation to failure), tactical maneuvers, and individual combat situations. The high command in Britain, hoping to capitalise on the continuing disorder in Germany arising from their adjustment to fighting a losing war on two fronts (three, in fact, if one includes Italy), saw the opportunity to strike. Through a series of misfires and misunderstandings, they end up fighting not local police forces (the Netherlands had been spared intense battleground warfare for most of the war, and thus was thought to not contain any real combat-strength troops) but crack Panzer division placed there, essentially on a rest stop before being deployed in more critical areas.
The planning and preparations are realistic, from a look at the intelligence gathering and analysis (these were the days before satellite imagery), the gathering together of equipment and personnel, the execution of the operations, and the demoralising realisation that Operation Market-Garden is not going well. One of the most outstanding scenes involves General Stanislaw Sosabowski (played by Gene Hackman) discussing the operation with his superiors - Sosabowski, a general of the Polish forces in exile in England, distrusts the operation, for good reason, but acquiesces to support the plan. His uneasiness is palpable.
The cinematography is terrific, considering it was done largely without 'trick' shots - no helicopter shots, no CGI graphics, no slow motion or composite tricks. The airborne drops are breathtaking, giving the thrill and the danger a realistic tone. The film does not depict glider landings (some of the most dangerous types of drops, and presumably because of this danger, omitted from the filming). The desperation of the men who land without their equipment (or miss the airdrops later due to failed communications) is easily felt - the sense of the waste of war is driven home when one soldier sprints to get some desperately needed supplies that have fallen just outside of the secure zone - being shot by a sniper, the sense of futility is underscored by the breeze blowing soldiers' caps (which was the contents of the supplies for which the soldier paid with his life) drifting away.
The acting is stunning in many instances, but for the most part it is the usual good job rather than outstanding that one might hope for from such an elite group of actors. The music is memorable and appropriate. One drawback is that the editing of the film makes it a bit confusing to keep the various storylines going, particularly if one has studied the sequence of events in World War II history, which, while followed as a pattern, is not adhered to with rigour in the filming.
- Conclusions -
Operation Market-Garden was conceived as a plan to get the troops 'home for Christmas', hoping to secure a passage into Germany prior to the winter, to force them into surrender. As history would have it, there were major battles to fight before the war would finish the following summer. This film captures a significant campaign in good format, showing the operational and human aspects in a high relief.
Summary: Many Stars, But No "Star" of the Movie...
Review: ...And that's the way it should be. War is not a movie, in which one person stars, and everyone else is the supporting cast. War is about teamwork, and ABTF showed it. There were plenty of big names in the cast, but no one stood out. It was probably meant to be that way, and that's what made the movie great.
Some of the scenes seemed to be reenacted quite faithfully, especially the Arnhem Bridge battle scene in which the German attempt to storm the British position was turned back.
The equipment is pretty authentic, although most Shermans were short-barreled, and I can't pick out what type of fighter-bombers the Allies used. I am impressed by how the makers of the film managed to scrape together such a collection.
The acting (unlike Saving Private Ryan, for example) is more dramatic than realistic. The blood and gore have been limited (like when the old lady walks out into the street and gets shot, but you don't see any bullet holes in her), but then this movie came out 25 years ago.
Summary: Wanted to be "The Longest Day"
Review: ...but it ended up just being "the longest movie."
To my mind, A Bridge Too Far is a sort of hybrid between the really great classic war movies, The Longest Day being the standard bearer, and the grueling intimacy of Saving Private Ryan. It doesn't really work perfectly in either way, and man, does it ever last a loooong time.
Take, for example, the famous scene of Robert Redford's river crossing in Bridge. We're supposed to feel the sort of gut wrenching terror we felt on Omaha beach in Ryan, but we're also meant to be having the sort of cavalcade of stars we saw in Longest Day ("There's Robert Mitchum!"). I can't really identify with Redford, and anyway the Bridge depiction of him has him practically sainted, just this side of George Washington as he says his Hail Mary thing over and over. Because we're supposed to be feeling the disorientation of the actual soldiers, a la Ryan, we lose track of the big picture/Longest Day context... it's just flawed, and I wasn't moved by it as much as confused and dissatisfied.
A Bridge Too Far is watchable, but it goes in too many directions at once, so it can't rate among the classics of the genre for me. I recommend you read the book instead, or at least read it first.
Summary: About an actual World War II operation
This film was made in 1977 about an actual srategic operation mounted in Europe in 1944. It was planned by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, the British commander who was well-known for his competition with (and dislike of) the American General George S. Patton, who is not represented in the film.
Montgomery is the bloke who got credit for pushing Rommel's Afrika Korps out of the Sahara, and for trying (unsuccessfully) to beat Patton across Sicily.
Like many top commanders, he was extremely egotistical, but short on aggression, as Patton demonstrated, and in this case his "Operation Market Garden" turned out to be a hairbrained disaster and blood bath: the Aircraft and gliders missed many of their drop zones and failed to drop vehicles and armament as planned (gliders were a disaster on D-Day, too, and they should have known). Eisenhower, being more politician than general, and trying to placate the Brits, let Monty talk him into the disastrous plan.) In the story, at least, one of the top British commanders refused to accept photographic evidence that German "Tiger" tanks from an SS Panzer division near Ramaden (one of their targets, which was supposed to be a "cakewalk") because he didn't want the operation to be delayed, which resulted in many unnecessary deaths. At the end of the movie, he said, "Well, as you know, I always thought we were trying to go a bridge too far." Hence the title. The man he addressed, played by Connery, should have shot him on the spot. The route chosen for the main body of troops who were to support the
airborne units was too narrow, incapable of carrying the required traffic, and resulted in the operation taking over a week, instead of the planned two days. Then, there were the inadequate boats for crossing the Rhine. The operation was mounted in only seven days, as opposed to several months for D-Day, which accounted, perhaps, for the numerous foul-ups. That, and the unmitigated arrogance of the planners!
In short, Monty's plan was hairbrained and poorly thought out, but he claimed afterward that it was "Ninety percent successful." That was Sir Bernard Montgomery!
This movie was well-acted with many top name actors, all of whom did justice to their parts: Sean Connery, Dirk Bogarde, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Laurance Olivier, and Robert Redford, to name only a few. The film itself seemed to be well researched, and quite realistic foe that era.
One of the better World War II films, I recommend it for those of that endangered species, the WWII generation--those of us who are left--and will most appreeciate it.
Joseph (Joe) Pierre, USN (Ret)
author of Handguns and Freedom...their care and maintenance
and other books
Summary: Bad sound can not spoil this classic
Review: A Bridge to Far is one of my favorite films of all time. The scope of this movie is so large it can almost be called the Titanic of the 70s due to its length and huge budget for the times. It is so rare to find a film full of so many stars and still pay attention to detail, plot and characters. Truely an under rated classic. The only problem with this film is the sound. When released on video the sound was not done well with the quality and volume being very uneven. You go from having to turn up the volume to hear the dialog and then down when the music starts off. It was my hope when this film was released on DVD that this problem was going to be fixed. Alas it looks like they simply took the sound track strait from the VHS video strait to the DVD. Pitty although I still recommend this classic strongly.