An admirable effort. That is what I can call this 1977 Richard Attenborough feature A Bridge Too Far. This movie had all the ingredients to become a war classic. A great director, an all-star cast (and that is putting it lightly), a World War Two story that no one seems to know about, and the promise of Nazis being destroyed. The thing is, the film does not live up to its full potential. In that sense, the movie is a slight disappointment. I wanted to really enjoy the movie, but I mostly got mild entertainment. Based on from what other people say, my opinion seems to be what the majority thinks. A good war movie, but it could have been much better.
Now why exactly isn’t this movie heralded as an all-time favorite? I actually think the main reason lies in the story itself. The story is interesting, but it is about an Allied failure. People don’t want to see that, especially since the time of this mission was occurring as the Nazis were loosening their hold on Europe thanks to the strong Allied efforts. The movie also pushes three hours long, and the movie moves very slowly at times. This war film actually holds the least action in any war film I can ever remember. That is impressive considering the running time of the movie. My main concerns are the constant repetitions and the long running time.
That being said, there are some great things about the movie. Being a history film, the creators have the liberty to change the story to make a better movie. Not here. I value the historical accuracy, and I actually found it to be what kept me engrossed in the movie. It was a story I did not know much about, so I found this to be a learning tool. I also really enjoyed the performances from the cast. If you want a great cast, just check this film out. With a cast featuring Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, James Caan, Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, and Robert Redford just to name a few. At the very least watch the cast do a fine job, even if some of their roles are glorified cameos.
So let’s dive into a history lesson. This movie was about an unsuccessful Allied mission called “Operation Market Garden.” It took place in September 1944 in the Netherlands and Germany. Basically, there were two sub-operations. The first operation consisted of Airborne forces being parachuted behind enemy lines to capture several bridges. That would allow the next operation, the ground forces to advance and cut off the heart of German industry. Mainly due to bad luck, poor communication, and bad weather, this operation failed at the Arnhem Bridge when the Allied forces at the ridge was overran, thus delaying an Allied victory.
Despite some problems, I thoroughly liked A Bridge Too Far. I consider it to be a serviceable war film because it does the story justice. The movie had strong potential, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Strong performances are everywhere (especially from Anthony Hopkins and James Caan). The movie does have strong visual effects that thoroughly complement the story. So I guess that is another plus. I loved the admirable, ambitious attempt famed director Richard Attenborough did in trying to make this a masterpiece. I can see he tried so hard, but he does get somewhere with that effort at least. If you want to see a quality bridge film during this era, definitely watch The Bridge of River Kwai before this film. But if you’re a sucker for war films, then this is a good one to watch.
My Grade: B-