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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.
I'm not a fan of hyperbole but this may be one of the greatest war
movies ever made. It works on a number of levels. While being
historically accurate it shows individual and group heroism without
glorifying war. The players, German and Allied, are presented as human
beings caught up in something bigger than themselves. No attempt is
made at "jingoism" or gratuitous flag waving. It seemed to me to be
refreshing free of moralistic or political statements. It simply let
what happened speak for itself. For a history buff like myself it spoke
The movie is flawless. As mentioned above, it is surprisingly accurate. As one would expect from the cast, acting is first rate. Not a single scene is wasted.
This is a "must see" movie for anyone who appreciates movie making.
"Quite frankly," observes 'Boy' Browning, "this kind of thing's never
been attempted before." But it has. In 1962, "The Longest Day" gave the
epic star-studded treatment to the D-Day landings, and here we are, 15 years
on, doing the same for the Arnhem debacle. It has to be said, the film
looks great. From the gently-tinkling light fittings in the Dutch
resistors' home to the beauty of the tank tracks in perspective, this is a
In 1944, the German armies were being pushed back across the Low Countries. The Allies' great strategic problem was the Rhine, the wide river which formed Germany's western border. A daring plan was conceived which would overcome the Rhine obstacle and open the road to Berlin. 'Market Garden', as the plan was codenamed, involved parachuting spearhead units onto the great bridges over the Rhine and securing them for the critical few hours it would take for an armoured column to drive up and relieve them.
It is easy now to point to the flaws in 'Market Garden', but at the time it looked like a daring and viable alternative to slogging it out against the Siegfried Line. No-one had anticipated that the Dutch people would pour out onto the streets in throngs, thinking that they had been liberated, and thus bog down the armour. The intelligence indications of heavily-equipped German units in the zone were ignored because they were inconvenient. Critically, the plan allowed for only one solitary road to be available to the Irish Guards for the all-important northward thrust. The film illustrates very effectively the way in which a plan can develop its own momentum, regardless of the shortcomings which riddle it.
The sequence of the boarding and dropping of the paratroops is a thrilling spectacle, shot on a colossal scale. The German ambush which delays the rolling of the armoured column is another terrific action sequence. Attenborough keeps tight control of a big, complex story, and interlards the large-scale stuff with 'human scale' passages, like James Caan's rescue of his buddy (incidentally, the tracking shot which follows his jeep through the forest is quite remarkable).
The fighting at Nijmegen is brilliantly-filmed. Note how the street on the British side grows increasingly littered with war debris as the battle rages. Robert Redford's assault across the river is a symphony in olive drab, leading to a wonderful moment of exhilaration.
Whether the viewer finds the singing of "Abide With Me" moving or grossly sentimental will depend on personal taste, but the subdued ending is very satisfying. 'Market Garden' may have helped shorten the war and may have achieved most of its immediate objectives, but it has to be seen as a tragic mistake.
The film is slick, professional and very pleasing on the eye. One can't help wondering, however, if this kind of 'tank opera' was worth the effort, given that "The Longest Day" had done it all so splendidly a generation earlier.
I'm a big fan of war movies and I already have a nice collection on
DVD. One of them is A Bridge Too Far and I can only say that it is one
of my favorites in this genre (if you can make a comparison between
movies like A Bridge Too Far, Saving Private Ryan, All Quiet on the
Western Front, Apocalypse Now... of course). What I really don't
understand is why this movie never was a big success in the cinema's.
Perhaps the people had enough of war movies ... and Star Wars was very
hip and new at that time of course, but personally I love this movie.
What makes this movie so good is the realism. In most of the war movies of that period, everybody speaks English. No matter if it is a German, an American,... In this movie everybody speaks the language he is supposed to speak. There even is a difference between the English of the Americans and the British. But of course the use of different languages isn't the only thing that attracted me. Another good example is the fact that they didn't try to make all the Germans look like brainless killers, monsters without any human feelings. The movie showes them the way they really were: good and hard fighters who cared about their comrades just as much as any allied soldier, but who didn't just kill for fun. (Just for your information: I'm talking about the soldiers in the Wehrmacht here and not about the SS, even though not all SS-troops where that bad either. There are good and bad people in every army.)
The effort which was put in this movie is shown in every detail. The uniforms, the weapons, the landscapes, the cities..., everything really gives you the feeling the director wanted to give an accurate vision on what happened during operation Market Garden. Images from the movie were even incorporated in a documentary on this subject. That probably shows better than anything else how good this movie really is.
You probably ask yourself if there really isn't anything negative about this movie. Of course there is, but it never really bothered me. Therefore I reward this movie with a 9/10. Perhaps a little too high according to the average IMDb user, but for me it's sure worth it.
The movie is a cut above most cinematic portrayals of historical events, likely due to it's being based on historian Cornelius Ryan's excellent book, and it's not as overproduced or staged as the film version of another of his books, The Longest Day. The producer admits to crediting one assault to the Americans, when in the event the British were first to attack, but overall the movie relates a good sense of history and geography, and respects the timeline of the actual events. It shows the national and class tensions affecting the Allied leadership, and gives a sense of the character of the participants. The writing gives the plethora of good actors something to work with despite no single leading role (and it's fun to watch so many actors in a single film.) Relevant information is included in the character's dialogue rather than through narration. The editing adds to the flow of events, balancing the suspense borne by the individuals involved with interest and action for the viewer. Add in the Intelligent direction by Richard Attenborough, and it makes this one of my favorite World War Two films.
This video portrays with great precision in an almost acted documentary way
the failed attempt in September 1944 to end WWII early based on the plan
conceived by Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery of El-Alemain (with
Eisenhower's approval).The Allies by this time had advanced deep into
Belgium almost to The Dutch border but the advance suddenly slowed due to
their out-running lines of supply and their inability to take a servicable
port intact nearer their front line.Supplies were still being transported
from the won Normandy beachheads a distance of over 500miles.
The Plan involved dropping British, American and Polish paratroopers at strategic bridges in the Netherlands such as The Son, The Grave, Nijmegen, to be taken by the American 82nd and 101st Airborne and the prize, Arnhem to be taken and held by British paratroops.Once all these bridges were captured and held, The British 1st Army would drive up the road linking them, thus giving the Allies a springboard to the Rhine and Germany.It was code-named "Operation Market Garden", Market being the airborne drop and Garden the drive up the road.That was the theory. The planners overlooked,by ignoring seemingly on purpose aerial reconnaisance photos which indicated that Dieter's SS Panzers were resting and re-equipping in the Arnhem area. The Allies' communications equipment had not been tested thoroughly enough e.g. "walkie-talkies" worked in open country but what about in built-up areas?Did they have the right sort of crystals fitted?The daily air drops to re-supply lightly armed paratroops could not work if the paras were not in their coded/designated drop zones. Amazingly after the strategic withdrawal from Arnhem, Montgomery is purported to have said it was "90% successful"!
This film, directed by Richard Attenborough, was made in 1977 with a galaxy of well known stars i.e.:Dirk Bogarde as General Boy Browning,Lawrence Olivier, Liv Uhlman,Ryan O'Neal, James Caan, Robert Redford, Gene Hackman,Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery and Michael Caine.They all play historical figures but for me the most effective was Edward Fox playing General Sir Brian Horrocks.The latter presented a UK TV series on WWII in the 1960's and Fox's mannerisms and speech patterns were unerringly similar.Please bear in mind that since the recent film "The Saving of Private Ryan", special effects in war films have gone up a quantum leap, e.g. the havoc that bullets/bombs/morters etc can wreak on the human body.So you are looking at 1977 special effects.Nevertheless the equipment including the DC3's and filming of the actual paratroopers drop into The Netherlands was most impressive.Sometimes the dialogue is a little stilted to modern tastes but this is or should be speech patterns from 1944.It was General Boy Browning who stated "...but sir, I think we may be going a bridge too far" when he met with the Allied top brass to oversee the plan which he had to execute.This is certainly one of the seminal WWII war films and the only one which concentrates on this failed strategy to liberate the Low Countries.
If you can forget the famous actors and get into their characters and have a sense of modern history, this long film will stimulate you.
"Private Ryan" may have served up more blood and guts, but it had a fanciful
plot and it didn't really tell audiences anything about D-Day. By contrast,
"A Bridge Too Far" is like something the History Channel would produce; it's
full of maps and narration and endless tactical discussions that, amazingly
enough, really held my attention - and really enlightened me about the
battle of Market Garden.
It helps that the ensemble cast is great - perhaps the best ever assembled - and the characterization, though a bit thin (as in most war movies), is certainly good enough considering how heavily the plot dominates. The film's one major weakness is that it telegraphs the battle's result from too early on; all the smart characters think that the operation will be a disaster, and lo and behold, it's a disaster.
I love this movie anyway, maybe because of the production style, which is more realistic than the cornball war films of previous decades but not quite so over-the-top as "Private Ryan." The battles are both thrilling and terrifying, a nicely struck balance. When the end credits roll, I always feel tired - like the characters - which is a testament to how involving (and effective) the movie is.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Richard Attenborough's monumental war drama is about one of the most
stirring battles of World War II, based on the best-seller by Cornelius
Ryan... The film presents the most impressive all-star cast ever
assembled for a single production...
World War II's "Operation Market Garden" would have put the Allies in control of the major road leading into the industrial Ruhr, the heart of the German war machine... The war would have ended in a matter of weeks... Instead, what Market Garden left in its wake, through a combination of costly miscalculations, bad weather, battlefield politics and tactical errors, were more than 17,000 British, American, Dutch and Polish casualties, nearly twice as many dead as in Normandy...
On Sunday, September 17th, 1944, the largest assemblage of gliders, bombers, transports and fighters ever involved in a single mission flew over eastern Holland, and dropped 35,000 assault troops along the 64 mile road corridor between Belgium and Arnhem, the Dutch city on the Rhine River...
This airborne army - the Market phase of the operation - was assigned the task of taking and holding the six major bridges along the corridor...
Smashing through the crumbling German resistance along the way, the British Corps tanks and infantry - the Garden phase - were to link up with the paratroops and, with their help, drive the retreating armies of the Third Reich back into their own homeland...
The Germans, however, correctly guessed the British plan and formed a ring of armor around the approaches to the bridge at Arnhem... The result was near slaughter for all the allied forces and an enormous number of German dead...
Col. John Frost (Anthony Hopkins) and the survivors of his 2nd Battalion battered their way through heavy German fire to the northern end of Arnhem bridge, where they took up a strong position in houses over-looking the entire bridge...
For four long days and nights, Frost and his 'valiant few' held this tenuous position against superior German tanks and infantry... The Dutch civilian helped by piling the bodies of the dead - friend and enemy alike - in forbidding barricades across each major street to prevent Germans from reaching Frost and his men at the bridge...
Major General Roy Urquhart (Sean Connery), Brigadier James Gavin (Ryan O'Neal), Lieut.Col Joe Vandeleur (Michael Caine) and the rest of the Allied commanders met with much the same resistance and disaster...
At the Nijmegen highway bridge it became obvious that the British tanks would be stopped until the bridge's northern end could be taken by an assault crossing of the Waal River... This brave action, executed in a full clear day under murderous German fire by Major Julian Cook (Robert Redford) and his battalion, has been described by witnesses as one of the most heroic deeds of arms in World War II...
Delayed by ground fog in England, both replacements and badly-needed supplies were late in arriving... Communication was so bad; most of the food and ammunition fell into the hands of the Germans...
The Polish Parachute Brigade, under Major General Sosabowski (Gene Hackman) command, held up three days by the fog, finally made their drop into a deadly thick shower of German rifle and machine gun fire... Many died before they touched ground, and the rest met with further disaster...
Casualties were enormous and the hundreds of British wounded were placed in the Beautiful home - of Dutch heroine Kate Ter Horst (Liv Ullman) - offered as a surgery and the small hotels provided some bed space for the worst casualties...
Laurence Olivier (Dr. Spaander) wins a cease-fire from the German Lieut. General Wilhelm Bittrich (Maximilian Schell), in order to bury the dead and surrender the wounded...
Meanwhile, Col. Frost and the last few at Arthem bridge were taken prisoners by the Germans... Only a few escaped... Vandeleur's advance was stopped cold... Urquhart hopelessly surrounded planned a retreat down the river... The Germans, lighting the river with rockets, began firing on the fleet and only some made it to the other side...
The following morning, Padre Pere, a British Chaplain who stayed behind with his wounded men, noticed the mysteriously frightening silence that prevailed throughout the whole Oosterbeck area... All of the surviving patients realized that they were now German prisoners... The battle of Arnhem was over...
This is an enormous story of an horrifying human disaster... A plan formulated by Field-Marshal Montgomery and sanctioned by General Eisenhower... The film shakes you... The pity of it touches you...
Richard Attenborough has consolidated his position in the British cinema by directing notable films based on true characters and events: "Young Winston," "A Bridge Too Far" and then had a phenomenal success with "Gandhi," winner of 8 Academy Awards...
A Bridge Too Far was the last of a long line of the "General's"
war-films that came out of Hollywood since WWII. Afterwards, the
production for these films wavered, probably because of the fact that A
Bridge Too Far did not fare so well in the box office.
One of the main reasons A Bridge Too Far did not succeed as it might have was because of the American audience. The film was a) targeted towards a British audience and b) made very soon after the end of America's involvement in Vietnam. The combination of time and subject killed the film. But anyone can tell you that every time this film is shown on a TV broadcast, the ratings are quite high.
The film itself, contrary to what many would claim, IS NOT another glorification of American heroism. While there is a certain American involvement which is rightly due, the film is very much centered on the Brits at Arnhem. Afterall, they were the ones that got massacred, right? Adding to that, the initial setup of the operation (which the film took surprisingly long to cover, and probably killed off the interest of the average movie-goer/critic) was almost solely concerned with the British planning, with one or two references to the American G.I. (I guess they had to put in those mini-episodes of American servicemen to attract the American viewing public).
But enough about the bad side of the film, now onto the amazing part:
This is the first film I have seen from that generation to create a realistic picture of what the setting was like (down to the very streets and houses of Holland, which, for comparison, The Battle of the Bulge managed to get ALL wrong --- as a sidenote: if you have seen the aforementioned film, have you noticed how during the climatic battle, tanks drove across a DESERT? The battle took place in January during the WORST winter storm of Europe in Belgium... and how they managed to convince the public that if a tank is painted with an iron cross, even though it's an American M48 main battle tank built in the late 50's, that it must be a German Tiger tank... sorry for the rambling). I am most impressed by the Arnhem bridge itself (sadly, they dedicated much too short a sequence of cheering soldiers to the bridge at Grave, which is probably one of the greatest Allied success EVER for a bridge assault, up there with Remagen and Pegasus), which is shot on location with probably the most accurate feel of just how desperate the situation was (and none of Private Ryan's heroism/John Wayne-invincibility either).
Characters are excellently portrayed, although how they really acted historically might be somewhat different. Camera-work was phenomenal, given the difficulty of shooting on scene (they couldn't close down the Arnhem Bridge for extended periods of time, one must realize). The most dramatic sequence was probably the launch of the planes and the subsequent breakout by XXX Corps, which to this day remains my favourite battle sequence in any movie (yes, even when compared with the Omaha scene from Saving Private Ryan).
Like the movie, my review has become unnecessarily long. But to conclude, this film deserves a good watch, or maybe even a couple of viewings, for any serious history/war-film lover or those who just want to learn more about those who have sacraficed so much for us. 9/10.
Last week, September 13 to 19, 2004, Operation Market Garden happened
exactly 60 years ago. It was maybe the last remembrance of Operation
Market Garden with a sizable number of veterans present from as far
afield as Australia, the USA, Britain, and Poland. It was VERY
impressive to see them marching or driving over the John Frost Bridge
in the centre of Arnhem, where the battle had its climax. The veterans
I talked to told me they really enjoyed the warmth with which they were
received, by both the young and old Dutch people. Many were moved
emotionally.. and many visit the remembrance annually, as far as their
health permits (they are all in their 80s of course).
Other memorable events were the air droppings on the Ginkelse Heide (heath), and the ceremony at the military cemetery at Oosterbeek, attended by the Queen of Holland and the Prince of Wales.
For those who are interested, here are some good websites with info on the battle:
Hope someone found this useful. Hans, from Holland.
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