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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "We haven't the proper facilities to take you all prisoner!", 15 Aug 2004
This review is from: A Bridge Too Far (2 Disc Special Edition) [1977] [DVD] (DVD)
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.
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