A Bridge Too Far

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A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Directed by Richard Attenborough

Based on the book A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan

Screenplay by William Goldman

Starring: Sean Connery, Ryan O’Neal, Michael Caine, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, James Caan, Elliott Gould, Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford

The story of the ambitious September 1944 military operation in the Netherlands known as Market Garden.This film tells the story of one of the most historic operations of World War II. The film was adapted by William Goldman (All the President’s Men) from Cornelius Ryan’s (The Longest Day) 1974 book of the same name. The movie was directed by Oscar-winner Richard Attenborough (Gandhi). The cast features a long list of incredible actors including Laurence Olivier (Rebecca), Robert Redford (The Sting), Gene Hackman (Unforgiven), and James Caan (The Godfather). The film also stars Sean Connery (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), Ryan O’Neal (Love Story), Michael Caine (Batman Begins), Elliott Gould (Contagion), and Anthony Hopkins (The Elephant Man).Market Garden doesn’t need embellishment to stand out as a riveting and powerful story. William Goldman crafted the script from Cornelius Ryan’s 1974 book. This one is a dramatic story told on an epic scale. The emotion brought out in the film comes from the horrors of war, the elation of success, and the tragedy of defeat. The characters are, in many cases, taken from history and developed nicely throughout the film. The dialogue is strong, written without the clich├ęs so typical of the genre.This script was an ambitious attempt to tell a huge story that has many simultaneous moving parts. Somewhere within the history of the operations, Goldman also had to find the human element. He did this through the connections he made between the characters. The relationships are important since they give the audience something to relate to within this massive story. As a whole, this script tells a very good story with only a handful of issues. Most of the problems come from the constant shifting between settings. At times this seems to take the bigger picture out of the equation. It also creates a feeling of repetition at times. These are challenges that might have been inevitable given the long list of settings and characters that Goldman had to contend with. In the end, this is a good story that succeeds despite the inherent challenges it faced.The actors in this film did an excellent job with the script. This could be considered the 1970s equivalent of The Longest Day, bringing out all of the big names of the era. Some of the standouts include Sean Connery, Ryan O’Neal, Michael Caine, and Gene Hackman. Anthony Hopkins, James Caan, Elliott Gould, Laurence Olivier, and Robert Redford also give great performances. It’s impossible to really isolate the best actors in a film like this. I would argue that James Caan gives on of the better performances of his career in this one. His grasp of the emotions of the moment really pay off. Elliott Gould also does incredible work with an energetic and emotional performance. This one is probably worth checking out for anyone who is a fan of any of the dozens of talented actors in the movie. There aren’t any bad performances to note, and the extras all do their jobs nicely.This one was an ambitious project from a production standpoint. Filming was done on location whenever possible, and authentic equipment and vehicles were obtained to add to the authenticity. Adding in the massive number of cast members and Attenborough pulled off one of the great achievements in directing. The action is intense and the stunt work holds up really well, even after more than 40 years. The filming included airdrops of up to 1,000 men at a time. The costuming is also impressive, maintaining an authentic look despite the large numbers of actors. All of this was nicely captured by cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth (Cabaret).This one doesn’t miss much when it comes to the look. The editing did a good job of keeping the pace of the film moving quickly despite a run time of almost three hours. The sound work is also really well done. Sound effects and sound design are both nicely handled in this one. One of the only issues with this one is the score. Composed by John Addison (Tom Jones), this one has moments that really age the film. The music seems written for a 1970s drama instead of an epic war movie. Despite the great performances and high production value, this one was largely overlooked by the media and shunned at the Oscars. It has been speculated that the focus on the failings of the Allies during Market Garden turned off American critics. I think this is a flawed epic that should be seen by anyone who enjoys war films with real history behind them. I would also suggest this one to fans of any of the stars. There are a number of great performances tucked into the movie. I give this one 3.7 out of 5 stars.

Rating: PG

Running Time: 175 Minutes


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