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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
The film tells the fact-based story of 'Operation Market Garden' which swung into
action on the 17th September 1944 (WW2)
A Thoughtful reconstruction of the events that took place during a nine day spell.
The film has a more than impressive cast-list for this historic war-movie including
names such as:- 'Dirk Bogarde' 'Sean Connery' 'Robert Redford' 'Ryan O'Neil'
'Anthony Hopkins' 'Michael Caine' 'Maximillian Schell' Gene Hackman' 'Edward
Fox' 'James Caan' 'Wolfgang Priess' and 'Laurence Olivier' among the many.
The plan is to drop 35,000 troops behind enemy lines to take and secure several
key bridges in Holland.
There are several purposes for this extensive operation, the need to take the bridges
on 'The Rhine' offer a gateway to Germany for the Allies, holding them will also
deter a rear-guard action, and would obviously prevent a German retreat.
'H.Q' have been made aware of German defences being strengthened on the road to
'Arnhem' a young Dutch boy had observed the build-up and informed his father who
was part of the underground movement.
A air-reconnaissance of the area confirms the intelligence received, 'HQ' seemingly
dismiss the threat posed.
As it happens during the first hours of the Op' the German Commander 'Field Marshall
Von Rundstedt' who's post is in the drop-zone dismisses the intelligence he'd been
handed, however as a precaution he does send his Lieutenant with a strong force to
protect the bridge at 'Nijmegen' assigning himself the defence of 'Arnhem'
'The Son Bridge' is destroyed as the Allies reach it, a pontoon bridge is assembled to
'The Grave Bridge' is also secured.
'The Nijmegen Bridge' is heavily defended, the German defenders do what they can to
The Allied Troops that reach 'Arnhem' are immediately put under heavy fire and are
seriously outnumbered, the armoured column heading for 'Arnhem' to relive the initial
force and intentionally cross onto German soil are penned in by two 'Panzer' divisions,
'Arnhem' was a 'Bridge Too Far'
This was one of the biggest military operations performed by the Allied forces during
The film graphically depicts fierce battle sequences and that of the suffering and cost to
civilian personnel caught up in what had become a battle ground.
It truly is a well constructed account of the events that took place during those nine days
in September 1944.
(The picture quality on this format is disappointing at times, but does not in truth spoil
what is a great movie)
Special Features :-
* A Bridge Too Far
* Platoon Trailer.
Run Time 168 minutes. (Well worth re-visiting)
on 1 January 2013
In 1944 General Montgomery conceived a plan that would, if successful, end the war in Europe before Christmas; a combined airborne and armoured assault on a series of strategic bridges in Holland, leading to an all out thrust into the German Rhineland's industrial heart. Unfortunately he didn't take full account that the Germans might not be entirely happy about this...
Dickie Attenborough's big budget adaptation of Cornelius Ryan's book of the same name has a lot in common with Spielberg's war classics - big sweeping panoramas, artfully framed shots, a distinctive, theatrical quality and a careful attention to military detail. Of course in the era before CGI there are plenty of "errors of necessity" noticeable to military buffs (those Harvard trainers just don't ring any bells for me as ground attack Jabos), but in general Attenborough managed to produce a very convincing facsimile of a WW2 multi-arm military operation. And so he should have, looking at the credited military advisors - Browning, Urquhart, Horrocks, Gavin et al - all of whom served on Operation Market Garden and who's advice lends the film a good deal of gravitas and realism. I was particularly impressed by the overhead view of the XXX Corps column prior to it's advance - the Red Caps directing traffic were a nice touch that might have been missed by a less careful (or less well advised) director.
Equally impressive is the all star cast; very well chosen to represent the personalities large and small - from Sean Connery and Dirk Bogarde as Urquhart and Browning all the way down to James Caan as an obscure Sergeant in the 82nd Airborne. It does help to have the various characters played by familiar faces - there are so many of them that it helps one to keep track of where, who, what and when. Favourite performance has to be Edward Fox's portrayal of Brian Horrocks, but Anthony Hopkins is also impressive as Johnnie Frost.
The film was generally panned on release for both it's frank portrayal of what was in effect an epic Allied blunder and also for it's great length: I suspect that today's audiences would probably be a good deal more tolerant of it's bum-numbing 3 hour run time - but it is generaly acknowledged nowadays that A Bridge Too Far must rank as one of the greatest war moview of the 20th century and in my opinion, it gives most of the 21st century's offerings a damn good run for their money as well. Thus it can sit alongside, for instance, Das Boot,Platoon,Saving Private Ryan and Band Of Brothers with no shame whatsoever.
A brilliant film, a brilliant cast and many brilliant performances - what more can one ask?
The movie revolves aound the rather over-ambitious and, in many respects, ill-planned and ill-conceived plan to assume control of a series of bridges in Northern Holland that would allow eventual access to the crossing of the Rhine. The plan was given the codename 'Operation Market Garden' and entailed the dropping by parachute of quite literally thousands of men of whom some were British, and others Canadian and Polish in more or less equal numbers. It was the latter two groups who comprised the bulk of eventual casualties.
Supposedly thoroughly researched by reconnaissance for weeks in advance, no-one noticed that an encampment of many hundreds of battle-hardened and extremely experienced German Panzer forces with all their equipment and armaments was basically at the centre of the dropping ground. It was thought to be a training battalion of inexperienced troops or something equally non-threatening. Also, errors were made in interpreting the landscape and the territory was not as flat and hazard-free as thought. Some was quite wet and boggy and there were ditches into which gliders could fall.
Some of the troops were in standard troop carriers and many were in flimsy, plywood gliders that were towed either singly and sometimes in pairs by the larger and generally well-powered troop carriers or by bombers. The pilots of the gliders were barely-trained troops. Many of the gliders were released far too early as the towing aircraft came under fire and the weight of the gliders and men and equipment on-board slowed them considerably. Many of the troops in those gliders were some miles from their intended dropping zone and had to march to their targets.
For others, many of the gliders were attacked in the air and many troops killed or wounded. The remaining gliders landed more or less where was intended, but many crash-landed and others crashed into those already on the ground. The whole thing was a glorified mess and many of the troops on-board were killed in landing. Today's description would almost certainly be 'a major c*ck-up'
Once the Germans realised that many thousands of paratroops were dropping out of the skies (some dummies were used in an attempt to confuse, but the ruse was quickly discovered), they became sitting ducks and easy targest for rifle and machine-gun fire. Countless thousands died long before hitting the ground and about as many wounded.
Some did reach their targets and had a degree of success in capturing some of the bridges intact.
I did get to know one of the Polish paratroopers many years after the event who was one of those who was wounded and hospitalised by the Germans. He had few kind words to say about his captors and rather fewer to say about the British officer class in general and the planners of the operation in particular. I do know that there are many Poles who, to this day, feel rather ill-served by the experiences of their troops during this one operation, their losses were that significant!
The degree of the losses was rather well hidden at the time and the many errors made in the planning and execution rather smoothed out. Although considered as a near-disaster by those involved, it was widely touted as a major success. Wartime morale would not have it any other way.
The movie rather accurately portrays many of the errors, the heroism of many of those involved and the surprising opportunity given to the Germans at a time when very little was in their favour.
A very good representation of a disaster turned into a victory!