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Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Director: Richard Attenborough
Cast: Gene Hackman, Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery, Ryan O'Neal, Robert Redford
Genre: War-drama, History

Plot: WWII operation Market-Garden is deemed as 90% success by most historians, contrariwise, this movie depicts why it was more than just 10% failure.

A Bridge Too Far (1977) 
Based on the book by Cornelius Ryan this movie brings to screen shortcomings (the often not talked about) of the allied forces that led to strategic failure, resulting in loss of life.

A Bridge Too Far deals with an aspect of WWII that is mostly overlooked in other wartime movies. Not many movies portray the allied forced on the losing side; this one does and does so with quite immaculately.

September 1944 - Axis forces are almost defeated and with their resources exhausted, they are retracting from Netherlands. US general Patton and British Marshal Montgomery are racing against each other to be the first one to claim Berlin—their overconfidence overshadows this movie. Political games higher up the ranks force Eisenhower to give clear to Montgomery’s Market-Garden operation.

Market-Garden basically comprised more than 30,000 air-droppings of paratroopers 60+ miles behind enemy lines—an even bigger number than D-day. These paratroopers were supposed to attack and hold the bridges until infantry could arrive to secure them. However, the plan was chalked out hastily, and a lot of basic requirements and warning were completely overlooked. E.g., junior officers kept mum about possibility of radio-communication failure due to terrain (trees and water) and foggy weather conditions; those who reported suspicious enemy activity—tanks captured during aerial scouting and reports from Dutch underground about German elite force: Panzers—were removed from duty. Even some senior officers raised doubts about the strategic planning of Market-Garden—a prime concern being, the daytime jumps 8 miles from the bridge they were supposed to take over. All this notwithstanding, on site in-charge of operation General Browning goes ahead with Market-Garden.

The movie has very lifelike detailing of army infiltration and espionage. You actually feel the desperation of men who are trapped within enemy lines, running short on supplies. The scene of construction of Bailey bridge is simply awe-inspiring.
General Urquhart (Connery) of British Airborne Division, Arnhem loses 8000 of his 10,000 men and is rescued by Major General Sosabowski (Hackman). Lt. Col. Frost (Hopkins) in-charge of 1st British Airborne Division at Arnhem road-bridge dies fighting.

The huge star cast delivers a good performance, though there isn’t much scope for any one in particular as there are so many characters.

The movie probably didn’t gather as much accolade from audience, due its theme that is slightly anti of what we are used to but it is critically acclaimed and quite an honest work of art. Length might deter some!

A must watch to experience the flip side of war.

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