A Bridge Too Far (1977)

My oldest movie to date! A Timeless classic with a few of names most people will probably recognize. It is kind of funny to look back at older films and see people who we now all visualize with gray hair (or no hair).

The movie is about World War II’s ill-fated Operation Market Garden and the capture of bridges to help the allies flank the Germans. The title of the film is said to be a phrase referring to how the allies couldn’t take the final bridge at Arnhem. You know, stretching yourself too far to obtain a goal.

The acting in this film is phenomenal which is a compliment to its star-studded cast. The only acting that didn’t sit right with me was Gene Hackman’s portrayal of Maj. Gen. Sosabowski. I don’t know why but it just didn’t seem right; maybe it was his voice and the fake sounding accent. I also think I spotted a very young Willem Defoe a few years before his film career. I had to watch the scene twice as the roll isn’t credited anywhere. It just looked like him. Another thing, which is a bit comedic for the type of movie, is the American commander and that damn cigar in his mouth. Like he literally just has it to chew on. It is never lit and just looks like a ‘typical’ American portrayal. Not offended by it but it seems out of place.

I’m sure for the late 70’s when this film came out it had some good effects since most of it was real, you know the explosions and such. Even the makeup was good given all the blood and guts they had to use and create. Watching the film now you can see some flaws in the props which is kind of funny and a bit obvious. Mostly around the blown-up tanks.

Cinematography is pretty good as well except for a few shots switching back and forth during combat. Some of the shots of artillery firing and planes flying seemed a bit too staged. The parachute landings also seemed a bit off. Even though it was also supposed to be a serious drama type film it was a bit too colorful and vivid. Like fighting a war on a beautiful spring day. Even with all the death and destruction the sun is still shining.

Storytelling is a bit drawn out for a movie almost three hours long and it really isn’t building up to anything significant except the failure to take the Arnhem bridge. It is literally telling the story of Operation Market Garden, or at least how Hollywood wants to tell it. I enjoy WWII history but can’t speak to its accuracies or lack thereof. Even some of its sad and suspenseful moments don’t really get the emotions going like you’d find in todays movies. War is funny like that though, you have the immense sad moments; like the senile old lady getting gunned down in the street as she yells for a taxi contrasting to the British politely telling the Panzer division to go to hell as they ask for a complete surrender.

It doesn’t really focus on any one group or lead actor and flops around a lot between different stories. Which could be a major flaw because the audience doesn’t really know who or what to focus on. This can also lead to people potentially forgetting who our characters are and what their role is.

Overall, I personally thought the movie is very good at telling the story of Operation Market Garden. The cast is top notch which added great value to the film to help with its shortcomings. It tells a key story to those events in history while leaving out other details. It does have a few mistakes that can be seen if you look hard enough. The parachute landing shots have the marker arrows on the ground which I don’t think they would have had behind enemy lines is one small detail. When the American’s are marching to the Son bridge you can see a man’s face sticking out of the trees as they walk go by. When the British watch a cargo plane crash you can see it fly away just after the explosion (its wing can be seen briefly). A funnier and more questionable one is as the German’s advance over the Arnhem bridge. A scout car is seen going one way before somehow turning around and colliding head on with another German vehicle. The bridge is far to narrow and cluttered for that to have been possible.

The only real problem with watching the version on Amazon Prime Video is that the original subtitles were missing for the non-English speaking parts of the movie. Although it was a minor inconvenience for me it was nice to see them use actual languages for non-English speaking roles.

I’d give the movie a light four stars. I wanted to give it three, but it deserves more. Good acting (for the time) combined with some decent camerawork make this film a classic amongst others of the same genre. Its isn’t filled with unnecessary violence and over dramatized scenes which could go either way depending on who is watching.

If you haven’t seen this film already then, I can only recommend it if you like WWII and/or war films. It is a bit long at just under three hours and I found myself pausing it to get up from time to time to stretch. If you don’t like war movies, then it is okay to skip this one. Nobody will judge you.

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