Friday, October 10, 2008

A BRIDGE TOO FAR (Richard Attenborough, 1977, UK) The stellar cast includes James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford, and Lawrence Olivier to name only a few. The story is about the failed attempt to capture the Arnhem bridge in Holland during the catastrophe of Operation Market Garden in the later years of WWII. The film begins with the Allied and Nazi generals pontificating and philosophizing about their strategies, which make this cold, sterile drama begins to feel like a re-enactment for the History Channel. The film doesn’t seem interested in creating any intimate bond because all the characters are archetypes: characters who are ideally representative of their ranks. The Shakespearean dialogue dramatizes their emotions without any real feeling. However, the film comes alive during the combat sequences which a truly amazing. There are hundreds of WWII era tanks, planes, jeeps, anti-tank guns, artillery, and thousands of extras filing every scene with detail. The gore is kept to a minimum though the scenery is littered with wounded and dying soldiers. Director Richard Attenborough chooses to show us the Germans as human beings and not clockwork wind-up toy soldiers who only do Der Fuhrer’s bidding. It deepens the conflict because this isn’t a battle of good vs. evil: we witness this needless carnage as human beings mutilate each other for a hunk of steel spanning the Rhine. The ending shot of the homeless family silhouetted against the gunmetal sky is sublime: the child play-marches with a stick pantomiming the soldiers he has witnessed around him. Unfortunately, A BRIDGE TOO FAR seems an hour too long. (C)

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