This WWII film follows the perspectives of American, Polish and British soldiers attempting to capture key bridges behind German lines in a complicated parachute and armoured assault. Written by
Keith Loh <email@example.com>
Quite a few bad things have been written about A Bridge Too Far. Richard Attenborough's elephantine recreation of the battle for several strategically valuable Dutch bridges in the winter of 1944 is a star-studded, lengthy and exhausting film (and many critics at the time seemed to be of the opinion that it collapsed beneath its own weight). Almost thirty years on, the film is now viewed somewhat more favourably. It may feel 30 minutes too long, and the need for so many stars in so many tiny parts is questionable, but A Bridge Too Far successfully shows a fierce episode of the Second World War in all its chaotic glory. Incredibly, there's no use of the computer generated effects during the big battle scenes that it is relied upon in modern films like Gladiator and Troy. The scenes in this film were shot pretty much as you see them - so the 35,000 parachutists storming Holland, the river crossing led by Robert Redford under intense enemy fire, and other such staggering combat sequences were filmed with thousands of extras and a good deal of meticulous planning and preparation.
The film is based upon Operation Market Garden, an Allied plot hatched towards the end of 1944 with the intention of ending the war in Europe. The concept behind the plan was to drop 35,000 soldiers into Holland approximately 60 miles beyond the German lines, to seize six vital bridges, and to reinforce the paratroopers by sending in thousands of ground troops. However, various mishaps jeopardised the mission and eventually the Allies were cut off and had to withdraw, suffering severe losses.
As stellar casts go, A Bridge Too Far still takes some rivalling. Among the many famous actors involved, these are just a few: Sean Connery, Robert Redford, Laurence Olivier, Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Ryan O'Neal, Gene Hackman, Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins and Elliott Gould. It seems pointless for some of the actors to be cast in these roles - true enough, Connery, Bogarde and Hopkins get decent roles and a fair bit of screen time, but was it really worth paying Redford $2,000,000 for his ten minute heroics? Could a decent actor have not handled the role for a fraction of that amount? Is Gene Hackman really the correct choice for Polish officer Major General Stanislaw Sosabowski? Should a light comic actor like Elliott Gould be doing his cigar-chomping "fun" turn in a movie as serious as this?
Luckily, the film is a big success on other levels. The cinematography is extraordinary; the music is suitably stirring; the potentially confusing story is handled with clarity and true-to-the-facts sensitivity; and amid the chaos a number of very memorable scenes emerge. A Bridge Too Far is a very good war film - maybe the biggest war film ever conceived (The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan included) - and I feel that, although it has a few casting flaws, it is in almost every other department a great, great achievement.
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