76 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on 1 November 2004
This is an impressive adaptation of Cornelius Ryan's bestseller about the disastrous events that took place in September 1944, where the mission to take and hold the bridges that bordered Holland and Germany was unsuccessful, and human toll tragic, with approximately 8,000 casualties in the allied forces, and an equal number of Germans falling in battle. The script by William Goldman and direction by Richard Attenborough holds the many threads of this piece of complex history together, and makes it understandable to the viewer; so much went wrong, from the incorrect, misinterpreted or ignored intelligence, to the basic flaws in the plan.
The introduction before the titles is fascinating, with marvelous archive footage to illustrate a narration of aspects of the war, and the planning of "Operation Market-Garden".
The megastar cast is too numerous to mention, but standouts are Sean Connery as Major General Roy Urquart, James Caan, Michael Caine, and Edward Fox, who won 2 international awards for Supporting Actor. Maximilian Schell is excellent as a German general, and when the Nazi side of the story is told, the actors speak German, with English subtitles, adding to the realism of the film.
The cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth is spectacular, some of it very innovative, and with intense beauty; a rousing score by John Addison also adds a lot to the film.
"A Bridge Too Far" was Cornelius Ryan's last big best-seller, and no cost was spared in this ambitious production, costing $ 26 million, a huge amount in 1977.
A must see for anyone who appreciates history on film. Total running time is 176 minutes.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This is a review of the two-disc special edition. I first give a brief overview of the film (it is assumed that the potential purchaser knows at least the gist of its story), followed by my reason for purchasing the discs, and finally some added information about the extras.
Operation Market Garden was an audacious attempt by the allies in 1944 to shorten the road to Berlin and bring the war to a quick end. As this film shows, the operation almost succeeded but was ground down by its sheer size and complexity. The film was not popular in the US, apparently because many critics there refused to believe some of the true stories depicted in the film. And yet the film was based on the meticulous researches of Cornelius Ryan. Admittedly, there are one or two Monty Python moments, but the truths of these are considered in some of the documentary extras on the second disc (see below). In addition, America was at this time going through its own post-Vietnam appraisal when the concept of `heroic failure' might not have been de rigueur.
The film is almost three hours long and could have done with an intermission in the cinema; but at least with the DVD we can space out our viewing. The film bears repeated viewing just to take in the sheer scale of it all, that is the scale both of the original operation AND its filming. There are great set-pieces, such as the huge initial airborne drop. And of course there is a great list of star actors. But repeated viewing can also clear up some confusions. For example, initially I thought Anthony Hopkins's character was south of Arnhem Bridge whilst Sean Connery's was north, but then Hopkins tells us he's at the northern end and it is the Germans at the southern. When I watched the film with my partner, he commented that there should have been more use made of maps to show where everyone was at each stage.
The DVD was purchased because I am collecting Dirk Bogarde movies. (I also have a second cousin who took part in the operation.) Bogarde was a neighbour and good friend of Richard Attenborough's in Provence, but Bogarde fell out big-time with Attenborough when the film was released. Bogarde played Browning, the most senior officer depicted in the film. Since neither Eisenhower not Montgomery appears, Browning becomes the fall guy for the mission's failure. As John Coldstream notes in his biography of Bogarde, "The crude ethos of the Hollywood School of War has usually dictated, first, that there must be a fall guy for a failure and, if joint operations are involved, he should be British; second, that characterisation must be black and white, with no shades of grey."
Daphne du Maurier, Browning's widow, took the matter up in the correspondence columns of The Times, and ex-generals, friends and comrades criticised not only the script but Bogarde's performance. Bogarde then accused Attenborough of setting him up, though later their relationship was patched up. It was all dubbed `The Second Battle of Arnhem'.
The disc includes commentary by the screenwriter, a camera operator, someone from the art direction department, a second assistant director, and a special effects man. From these we learn much technical information about how some scenes were set up and shot. The film could not possibly be remade today in the same way because it would be an environmental crime. There is also commentary on the music composed by John Addison (who was himself a participant in Operation Market Garden).
The extras on the second disc comprise 1. a forty-five-minute History Channel documentary called `Heroes from the Sky' that includes archive film and interviews with participants in the operation as well as members of the film crew; 2. a moving fifteen-minute documentary called `A Distant Battle' in which actual participants recount their experiences; and 3. a twenty-minute interview with Attenborough in 2002 in which he refers to the controversy over Browning but also emphasises the anti-war message of the film.
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
The Allied attempt to seize strategic bridges from German control was ambitious, perhaps overly so - and "Operation Market Garden" was an event often brushed aside or misleadingly referred to as a partial success. This film (based on Cornelius Ryan's written account of events) is a near three hour epic which not only shows what happened, but it also highlights the personal stories of some of the men involved. The film starts with a black and white archive video showing scenes from the second world war, they explain the political and military situation five years in. It's an interesting use of library footage and sets up straight away the position of the war so far.
Trying to create a realistic recreation of the biggest ever parachute assault was no easy task but Richard Attenborough directs superbly to bring the story to the screen in a truly epic way. The earlier parts of the film involve some impressive shots of aircraft and skies dotted with countless parachutes - well before the days of CGI, this looks tangibly real. The film really nails the stark look of war, with bombed out buildings, cratered landscapes, and unwashed bloodstained soldiers. It's a sobering depiction which contrasts well with the optimistic "tally-ho" speech before the troops finally drop behind enemy lines.
Operation Market Garden resulted in several Airborne division at different locations, this feature follows some of those divisions and shows that the level of military success varied massively. The first landing was relatively easy with German resistance minimal and unorganised, but the wave of optimism subsided when subsequent landings at other bridges faced tougher opposition, communication problems, and lack of supplies/relief.
A Bridge Too Far has an extraordinary true tale to tell, and a cast representing some of the best acting talent of the time (and in many instance, now still) makes sure that the characters have depth and therefore feel real. This is above all a series of human stories rather than an account of military successes and failures, and that's why the film is such a compelling watch. Anthony Hopkins and James Caan give two excellent performances and stand out amongst an ensemble of consistently great characterisations. The actors are clearly immersed in their roles with every expression and gesture helping to bring the characters to life, this makes for some incredibly intense scenes and makes the emotive moments more poignant.
Many war films, and particularly older ones, are guilty of glorifying war and contain heavy bias. Although it's true that this is told almost entirely from the Allied point of view, it doesn't stereotype the Germans as emotionless Nazis. The human understanding between rivals who respect each other on the battlefield is also present in this film, it isn't given vast amounts of screen time but it is made clear that a 2 hour truce was arranged to make sure that the injured allied troops could be evacuated without danger of being caught in crossfire.
This Blu-Ray release is visually impressive. For a '70s film the transfer is excellent. The picture contains less grain than many films twenty years younger than this. There are many dimly lit scenes and the level of detail noticeably better than that of DVD, also scenes where there is much smoke and mist look sharp rather than mushy and all movement is smooth with no obvious compression. With camouflaged clothes, military vehicles and many outdoor settings, the screen is often full of green shades - on this release each shade is distinct not washed out. Those with fancy audio set-ups will enjoy an immersive sound, for those of with bog standard stereo speakers the music is often much louder than the speech, but not often enough for it to be a major issue. The sounds of war planes and gun fire seem loud, and that helps to create an atmosphere fitting for such a setting.
The main feature plays straight away without having to select play from an initial menu, not that a menu is that essential as there are no extras other than a few trailers. It's a disappointing lack of bonuses, especially when they do exist (and appear on some previous DVD releases).
In a nutshell: I know people who dislike this film because it seems unnecessarily long (it's not far off three hours) but I personally like the slow editing of the film and the epic scale means that you can experience the planning of the operation as well as the mission itself. The sheer pointlessness, not only of the operation, but of war itself is shown here whilst treating the soldiers with dignity and pride. I was tempted to knock a star off due to lack of extras but the actual Blu-ray transfer itself has been done with such great care that I'm going for the full five stars.
46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on 9 August 2001
The star studded cast in this film speaks for the film's excellence alone. Actors such as Dirk Bogarde, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Gene Hackman and Anthony Hopkins come together to combine their acting skills. Primarily, the fighting scenes are well structured, with none of the desperado "one man kills fifty men alone" sort of scenes, but instead concentrates on the viewers adrenaline, and the drama of battle. Even if you know the outcome of Arnhem before you watch the film, you cannot stop yourself wishing 30 Corps will rush to the paratroopers' rescue. For me the most poingant part of the film, was the bit where the wounded paratroops were sat on the lawns of a Dutch mansion , singing a hymn to pass the time waiting for the Germans to capture them, while their able bodied comrades retreated to safety. Get this film! It is an amazing war movie, which has Americans in cast, but does not neglect the British role in the affair.
Quite simply excellent.
57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
- 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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2012
This review is for the nordic edition which is identical to the uk release apart from the cover.
I formerly had the DVD edition (standard and special edition)of this movie and naturally was interested in acquiring the bluray release.
Reading other reviews regarding this bluray release I noted that many were negative so I took the chance to see for myself and became pleasantly surprised.
Some reviews described the colours as murky and not distinct. I did not notice a faulty colour scale. The different colours in e.x. the uniforms are very distinct, dark scenes satisfying black, only the sky scenes appear dissolved and unclear but that do not take away a general satisfying video transfer appearance. Of course You must not expect the video quality of Lawrence of Arabia but nevertheless I rate the video quality to 3.5
As to the audio transfer in DTS HD MSTR 5.1 some reviews noted the absence of activity in the rear speakers. It is true that explosions etc mostly are concentrated in the front speakers and a very active subwoofer. Planes and ambience are nevertheless clearly heards in the rear speakers so although we do not have the most dynamic use of surround we have clearly multichannel use. The surround is very subtle but must more widely used than in Guns of Navarone. I also rate the audio to 3.5
Many have critized the movie for being too long (a bridge too far). I think the movie has the length it has to get the message through (anti-war) - there is much dialogue compared to other action war movies - and the germans speak their native tongue instead of the typical and ridiculously use of English in other war movies. Lastly we must not forget the brillantly use of international cast.
As to extras I have to give it a low rating of 1. I would naturally have wished new material on the bluray release but at least one may ask why the documentary from the DVD Special edition was not transferred to this new release.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 15 August 2004
Operation Market Garden was the biggest airborne operation of all time. It was one of the biggest operations of the war, because victory meant that the war could be over by Christmas, four months after the Operation ended, as General Browning (Dirk Bogarde) explains at the beginning of the film.
Based on the book of the same name by Cornelius Ryan, A Bridge Too Far tells the story of the soldiers who embarked on the operation - which ended in disaster.
Three Airborne divisions, two American (101st and 82nd) and the 1st British Airborne would drop into Dutch three towns. The 10st in the southern town of Eindhoven, the 82nd in the mid town of Njimegen and the 1st Airborne into the northern town of Arnhem. They had to capture and hold the bridges in the towns and await relief by the motorised XXX corps, commanded by Lt. General Brian Horrocks (Edward Fox) and headed by Lt. Colonel J.O.E Vandaloe (Michael Caine) and his brother, Giles Vandaloe (Michael Byrne in cameo as usual).
The film is graced by an unusually brilliant cast. Sean Connery (General Roy Urqhuat, commander of 1st Airborne), Anthony Hopkins (Johnny Frost), Lawrence Olivier (Dutch Doctor), Maximillian Schell (SS Division commander, Bittrich), Hardy Kruger (SS division commander), Stephen Moore (Urquaht's aide-camp), Alun Armstrong (Airborne trooper), Gene Hackman (General of Polish brigade), James Caan (Gruff American Sergeant), Robert Redford (American paratrooper Major) and Liv Ullman (Dutch resistance).
The film's problems are that, unlike in films like Gettysburg and the Longest Day, you don't see an enormous coverage of the battles. For example, you see hardly anything of the 101st in Eindhoven or how they fought. You only see James Caan saving his wounded Captain and a Colonel seeing the construction of a bailey bridge. There are other similar occurrances in the film, so you think that the great director, Richard Attenborough, should have made the film perhaps 30 minutes longer.
When the film shows detail, it takes it to the fullest. The defence of Arnhem bridge is amazing as a British battalion, commanded by Lt. Colonel Johnny Frost (Anthony Hopkins), fights the persistent German attacks doggedly. You see the area around the bridge be torn apart, from an urban neighbourhood to an utter fortress in a warzone. Splendid.
There is also the crossing of the Rhine River by an American Major (Robert Redford), where his companies of men struggle across the river under intense shelling and continuous machine gun fire. Suspense builds up, especially as the Germans lay charges on Njimegen bridge to prevent the arriving XXX corps from crossing.
The film is moving as well in most aspects, especially as the British paratroopers, being ground down bit by bit, are treated by a Dutch Doctor (Lawrence Olivier) and recently made widow in her home (Liv Ullman). Eventually, when the wounded British prisoners await capture, they sing a hymn.
This film has it all in terms of action, from bombardment of the German Siegfried line by XXX corps at the start, to sneaking around an Arnhem suburb, to dense street fighting against German Panzers, to river crossings, to insane massacre of unsuspecting Polish paratroopers.
Perhaps scaled down by the realism of today's war films, A Bridge Too Far still remains a classic that should have pride of place on your DVD rack.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Richard Attenborough has directed a film that is as close as a film can come to being the definitive version of a historical event without actually being a documentary. The director took liberties with some characters and he spells those out in the 8-page booklet that is included with the DVD. Some of the scenes were dictated by the lack of authentic WWII equipment, or in the case of the spectacular gliders that were used, limited by the number that were built for the film without the original plans. At $35,000 per glider in 1977, this was substantial money for what was a small portion of this movie of just under 3 hours in length.
The notes on historical accuracy should be read, for unlike some new films that change the nationality of key historical figures without any concern for the truth or the memory and credit due to the real persons, Mr. Attenborough takes the time, and is candid as to why the change was made. Robert Redford's character was portrayed as having accomplished a given feat because it was, "good box office". Refreshing honesty and accuracy that present day Hollywood would do well to take note of.
This film was made before the invention of special effect technologies, which now make recreating epic conflicts much easier than when this was attempted in 1977. So in this film when they needed 6,000 men in uniform that is how many they had. Live breathing extras, not synthespians from the digital domain. And this is about the only manner by which the film shows its age. The transfer to DVD is not up to what it could and should be. Any film that is still in demand by consumers 25 years after its release deserves better treatment. The transfer looks like film, with all the attendant scratches, dirt, and grain associated with celluloid that is completing its 3rd decade.
This film also was made prior to actors being paid such huge sums that ensemble films have now become all but extinct. To put together a cast like the one in this film would require they work for scale with the balance going to recreating the history. These types of lineups just do not happen anymore. "Ocean's 11", put together a smaller ensemble cast, including Elliot Gould who also appears in this film. The actors took a piece of the gross, and made out well, I would hope more would do the same in the future.
If only star vehicles are made, when will the following caliber of players appear in one film again; Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Edward Fox, Elliot Gould, Gene Hackman. Anthony Hopkins, Hardy Kruger, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O'Neil, Robert Redford, Maximillian Schell, and Liv Ullmann.
A great film that is accurate to those that participated, and also honest when it strays from the history it is based upon, and also a jewel from the past, when talented actors participated in a large event, and not a film when they were the focus.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 1 July 2007
As action movies go, this is one of the best.
However, as an older Brit, I noticed there seems to be an ongoing theme in the movie that the British were incompentent and the Americans totally switched on and efficient.
Whilst I love our "cousins" dearly, my experience with them in the past has left a lot to be desired miltary wise.
What was Richard Attenborough thinking of when he made the film? He could have left out all the anti-Brit quips and still had a great movie.
But, it's still a fantastic piece of entertainment, even more so because it is (mainly) true.
Buy and enjoy.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This movie has to be one of my favorite war movies, and it is done in suchan epic scale that it has to impress. It tells the true story of thelargest airborne operation of all times, the second largest allied assaultin Europe after D-day and since it is based on real people and real eventsit has much more depth than fictional movies have.
The operation was to be simple, lay a carpet of airborne troops to capture4 key bridges through the Netherlands and ending on the eastern side ofthe Rhine and into the industrial heartland of Germany and end the warbefore Christmas 1944. Well if you remember your history well then youhave already seen that something went amiss and that is one of thestrengths of this movie, it is not a success story of a brilliant alliedvictory and sets the stage for more drama.
Made in 1977 it had almost every actor worthy of note and this is means 2things. 1) The acting is superb. My favorites are Sean Connery, AnthonyHopkins and Gene Hackman even though there are many other good actors. 2)There is to many of them and a rather lot of focal points in the story andthis can confuse some viwers. A friend of mine after seeing the movie onmy advice asked why thay were always fighting for the same bridge when infact there are 4 bridges. But you will enjoy seeing the actors listed atthe begining of the movie for there is every famous male actor in1977.
There are a few good action scenes, especially around Arnheim bridge wherethe british paras find themselves in a desperate holding action against aGerman Tank Division. But it is the story itself and the conversationsthat make the film what it is. Gene Hackman plays a polish commander whois sceptical of the operation from the outset and has very good lines.
Lastly a lot of work went into making the movie authentic and much effortwas put into scenes, uniforms, tanks and vehicles. You will not bedisappointed.
All in all it is a very good war movie.