This article was written by Andy Duffield. I do love a good war film. The Thin Red Line, Letters from Iwo Jima and Apocalypse Now are amongst my favourite. The last war film I watched was A Bridge Too Far. Directed by Richard Attenborough (Gandhi), it tells the story of the allies flawed Operation Market Garden which was the attempt to capture several bridges behind enemy lines and outflank the German defences. This aroused some controversy at the time as it was the first real war film to show flaws in the allies operations and how thousands of men died due to the inadequacies of the campaign. Due to this negative attitude in the film, it was completely ignored at the Oscars and generally shunned by American critics.
The film is far from perfect. It is repetitive and jumps around too much. It is more a film of great individual moments rather than a cohesive story. It’s probably way too long as well, however this does give you a chance to sit back and admire the beauty of the film and the epic scale it was made on.
One of the most impressive scenes is where the paratroopers are boarding the planes and gliders, ready to take off for the Netherlands. In typical Attenborough style he uses 100’s of extras. He even put them through boot camp and had them stay in barrack accommodation throughout the shoot; a testament to his comment to this project. There is so much going on in the scene and the choreography is superb. Sure enough it goes on for too long and there are a lot of shots, but who can blame Attenborough for wanting to show off this incredible ensemble of extras, planes and gliders he had put together. Later on in the film we see real paratrooper’s jumping from the planes that is equally impressive. Watching this film really makes me really appreciate the lengths filmmakers would go to make their film look as realistic and exciting as they could without the use of computers. Nowadays it is easy to create the illusion of a crowded airfield or paratroopers jumping from a plane, however everything in A Bridge Too Far is real and it hasn’t dated one bit. The result is a fascinating with many jaw-dropping moments as you constantly ask yourself, ‘How on earth did they do that?’ A truly great achievement which many filmmakers should envy.