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A Bridge Too Far (1977).

April 27, 2007

The Scoop:
Just like the World War II battle it chronicles, this film is full of good intentions but is too ambitious for its own good. In the wake of D-Day, the Allies hatched an ambitious plan to invade Germany that involved the capture of seven bridges across the Rhine River. It was the largest single military operation in history up to that point, but the fight to secure the last bridge — the Battle of Arnhem — proved to be just a little too much, and the Germans prevailed. The Nazis’ victory was short-lived, of course, but the preparations for the battle offer a textbook example of how even the most powerful army in the world, with a drastic tactical advantage, can easily spread itself too thin and fail. And much like the Allied commanders, the filmmakers found themselves in the same boat.

The film (directed by Richard Attenborough, who only agreed to do it in exchange for funding to make “Gandhi” next) gives an excellent look at the strategic decisions that go into any military operation. In fact, this general’s-eye view of World War II makes an ideal counterpart to the grunt’s-eye view in “Saving Private Ryan.” But with too many plotlines and too many characters, the movie eventually collapses under its own weight. The performances by a host of familiar actors (including Sean Connery, Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Ryan O’Neal, Elliott Gould, Anthony Hopkins, Liv Ullmann and Gene Hackman) keep the viewer from getting too lost, but the appearances by Robert Redford and James Caan are just plain extraneous. However, despite all these shortcomings, “A Bridge Too Far” is still worth viewing, particularly by those interested in military history.

Best Line:
“I’ve got lunatics laughing at me from the woods. My original plan has been scuppered now that the jeeps haven’t arrived. My communications are completely broken down. Do you really believe any of that can be helped by a cup of tea?”

Side Note:
Received eight nominations for the British Academy Awards, but not a single Oscar nomination.

Companion Viewing:
“Saving Private Ryan” (1998).

British Cinema Greats.

Take a Look:
The trailer:

The first air drop:

The Germans are coming!

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