A Bridge Too Far (1977)

<strong class="MovieTitle">A Bridge Too Far</strong> (1977)

(On Cable TV, November 2018) Watching A Bridge Too Far, I was struck at how closely the film initially seemed to follow the template of The Longest Day: A lengthy WW2 drama covering both sides of the war, with a lavish re-creation of the fighting and an ensemble cast of superstars including Sean Connery, adapted from a non-fiction book by Cornelius Ryan. But the comparisons only go so far, especially as the movie advances and the military operation goes sour. It’s certainly worth noting that a significant cultural shift happened in-between 1964’s The Longest Day and 1977’s A Bridge Too Far: The Vietnam War did much to affect the public perception of war and audiences having digested MASH and Catch-22 and Kelly’s Heroes in 1970 alone were far more willing to embrace a film about an unsuccessful operation. (Even A Bridge Too Far’s opening narration is a bit off-kilter, suggesting a level of built-in cynicism that would have been unheard of fifteen years earlier.) While there are plenty of enjoyable wartime heroics in A Bridge Too Far, mistakes in planning, insufficient intelligence, bad communications and plain old happenstance all contribute to a costly failure. Still, if the events described by the film may be frustrating to watch, the film itself is entertaining enough. The historical re-creation of the massive airdrops is impressive, the massive explosions are numerous and the sheer number of recognizable actors is also notable. Connery gets a great character to play, but there are equally interesting moments for Michael Caine, Robert Redford, Gene Hackman and even Anthony Hopkins in a very early role. The film does not describe a particularly glorious moment for the allied forces, but that may add to the sense of discovery while watching it—I’m a modest WW2 buff thanks to having read many histories of the era as a teenager, but I had either not learned or forgotten much of Operation Garden Market until A Bridge Too Far refreshed my mind. It’s quite a spectacle, and it’s not quite as well-known as other WW2 movies. In any case, it’s worth a watch if the subject matter interests you.

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