A Bridge Too Far (1977)

“Remember what the general said; we’re the cavalry. It would be bad form to arrive in advance of schedule. In the nick of time would do nicely. ” – Lt. Colonel J.O.E. Vandeleur

Number of Times Seen – Between 3-5 times (Cable in the 90’s, 21 May 2012 and 26 Jul 2017)

Brief Synopsis – Dramatization of one of the boldest military actions during World War II where the Allies chose to simultaneously capture three key bridges in Holland which would help them reach into Germany itself.

My Take on it – This is such a great war film and I have loved it every time that I’ve seen it.

Many people deride it since it is filled with so many familiar faces and think of it as a chance to just showcase famous actors unnecessarily.I personally think the opposite; the fact that it is filled with so many familiar faces actually helps the viewer keep track of all of the different characters and locations that we are shown.

They do a masterful job moving between the various units while keeping us easily updated as to what is constantly going on in each one of the various places that this film features.

Not only was the original mission that is depicted here a bold move by the Allied forces, but making it into a film was equally bold since so much goes on at the same time and Director Richard Attenborough expertly keeps it all in focus for us in epic fashion.

Making a film like this definitely was helpful in him making his epic “baby” Gandhi (1982) just five years later and move on to win an Oscar for Both Best Picture and Best Director for it.

The story itself is quite complex but is expertly depicted in just under three hours giving us the satisfaction that we can view so much of what happened.

None fo the ensemble cast really stick out as a lead here and that works to this films benefit because it is so much fun watching all of them appear (even if just for a scene or two).

Bottom Line – Star studded affair that shows how great an ensemble film can be. Not only was the mission bold, but so was the decision to make a movie about it.  The film masterfully moves between the different units and the use of famous faces actually helps the viewer keep track of who is where at all times.  The story is quite epic in scope and it does an amazing job getting so much of this story across in only a three hour runtime. None of the actors stand out as the star per se and the fact that there are so many stars here makes things even more fun to watch.  This film was proof that Attenborough was able to carry an epic film as Director which would eventually lead to his Oscar winning epic Gandhi (1982) just five years later. Highly Recommended!

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – According to the DVD edition, the real-life Colonel John Frost chided Anthony Hopkins during the filming, for running from house to house during the battle for Arnhem. According to Hopkins, Frost told him that a British officer would never have run, but would have shown disdain for enemy fire by walking from place to place. Hopkins claims he tried, but as soon as the firing started, instincts took over, and he ran as fast as he could. (From IMDB)

Rating – Oscar Worthy


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9 thoughts on “A Bridge Too Far (1977)

  1. SPOILER: Not in synch on this one. I saw it once – when it came out in the theaters. I do agree with you a bit that the all star casting does make it a bit easier to keep track of all the players – a trick they probably copied from The Longest Day. The problem here – and maybe a reason that it tanked at the box office – is that it WAS a bold endeavor by the Allies – but you failed to mention in your review – that the allied operation itself was a failure. They indeed tried to go “a bridge too far” and the mission didn’t work. I always wondered – with all the gallant battles fought in WW II – why go big budget on one that ended badly? I actually have a poster from this movie – not the one pictured above – but one with the faces of the all star international cast – and I’ve always liked the poster better than the film.

    The timing here is fortuitous – because I had the same feeling about Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK (which for the record – I didn’t like much either) – he too made a film about what was essentially a strategic retreat. Gallantry yes, but Dunkirk was not an epic battle fought and won – it was a retreat so the trapped forces could live to fight another day. Along those lines, it seems to share a bit of DNA with Bridge Too Far.

    Liked by 1 person


      I didn’t mention that fact on purpose since I try to keep my reviews spoiler free 🙂

      Anyone who knows history, know the ending but I didn’t wanna ruin it for anyone who didn’t already know it.

      Even a retreat or loss can be learnt from; not all movies must have a “win” at the end.

      Perfect example – Rocky, one of the reasons it worked so well was because of the journey, not because of the end result.


  2. Gotcha. But it’s kinda in the title – so really nothing much to “spoil”. And as to those who know history – you’d be surprised. I very much doubt that the majority of today’s audiences have ever heard of Dunkirk or know what it is or what happened there,

    On the subject or “wins” at the end – I agree. Rocky is a prime example. So is Saving Private Ryan. So is The Sand Pebbles. So (to a degree) is Jaws. So’s The Harder They Fall or 633 Squadron or Lawrence of Arabia or Bridge on the River Kwai or Planet of the Apes or countless other films. The point I tried to make that was of all the oft told and rarely told WW II stories – choosing to go big budget on a failure seemed – to me – to be a misfire from the start,


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