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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English, French, Czech, Greek, Polish, Hungarian, Dutch, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Screenwriter William Goldman
  • Photo gallery - 12 B+W pics
  • Interviews - Richard Attenborough
  • 2 Documentaries - Heroes from the Sky, A Distant battle: memories of Operation Market Garden
  • Trivia track

A Bridge Too Far: SE

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 169 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Critics panned this excellent film when it was released due to the fact that the Allied forces donít win the featured battle. In fact, this was the greatest wartime defeat of the Allied forces during World War II. Being so far removed from the usual ĎYeah, we kick arse!í apparently wasnít good enough for the critics of the time.

Well, it was good enough for this more modern critic at least, because I think it is a spectacular film with some of the most amazing recreations and massive scenes Iíve ever witnessed in a war film.

Telling the story of Project Market Garden, a massive allied assault on the bridges of Arnhem in Holland, we follow through various platoon leaders the slow decay of their plans and the death and destruction all around them. The actual battle killed or wounded more than 17,000 Allies, and most of these from the Airborne Parachute platoons (thousands more than the D:Day invasion). Such figures are almost unimaginable, and director Richard Attenborough brings this horror to life with compassion and irony. In essence an anti-war film, some of the messages delivered here hit home squarely, particularly into the last hour of the film when events arenít going the way the Allies planned. Herein are some of the most harrowing visions of the film and after sharing so much with these various men in battle, they hit home all the harder.

"We busted our arses getting here, half my men are killed and youíre just gonna stop... and... drink tea!?"

A massive cast helps tell this story and all the major players portray their roles with precision and appropriate levels of candour. Unbelievably, this film was never nominated for a single Oscar, even though its popularity was easily measured in the 50 million-dollar haul at the box office. I should say something about critics here, but unfortunately my hypocrisy only goes so far.

  Video
Contract

Thereís a minor tragedy playing out whilst the tragedy of the film plays on. That is the rather hairy transfer of this classic 1977 film. Artefacts are having their own little invasion it would seem, as they are prevalent throughout. Some of these are actually quite large and obtrusive. There are good examples at 50:06 and 1:55:40. There are a couple of big scratches too; see 12:36, and some writing on the original stock that they tried to remove can be seen at 10:27. So, thereíre plenty if you're a fan of film artefacts anyway (but who is?)

Aliasing also appears, though quite rarely. The best example is at 2:39:29 with the struts of one of the bridges. This myriad of diagonals must have been a major pain for the authors and for the most part theyíve been handled well. The picture is fairly clear throughout the film, as is the colour. Naturally this includes shitloads of green, but we donít seem to tire of it at least. Flesh tones are all realistically even and blacks remain true to life. Shadows among the night shots and day shots are treated well in both instances, giving us a look into their hidden details. On that note, the night shots are extremely well lit and the darkness never truly takes precedence unless intended.

One last thing about explosions. Happily, Attenborough has employed proper technicians to recreate some excellent and realistic explosions. I hate films where a bomb or grenade goes off and 30 shooting sparks all come out perfectly spaced (a lamearse example of this is in Proof of Life). Thankyou for your attention to detail Mr Attenborough. It just made the film all the more convincing.

  Audio
Contract

Even before the opening titles we are delivered a monologue by some withered old lady describing the war and its horrors. This is a little low, but thankfully the rest of the film isnít this way. In fact the dialogue is great and well spoken mostly. It does have some moments that sound echoey or muffled, but these arenít common and we can live with it. The rest of the film is fine audio-wise, with sound effects being spot-on and well synched and the music being a perfect accompaniment to the action or mood as required.

  Extras
Contract

This is a two-disc 'Special Edition', so Iíll discuss the first disc first. This has an audio commentary by screenwriter William Goldman which is momentarily interesting, but solo commentaries are always a little lame in my book. Much better with a smaller group of good friends doing it, I always think. However, the film also contains a trivia track which is quite impressive and discreetly positioned wherever the action is happening least on screen. There is so much stuff contained on this itís no wonder thatís all that would fit on disc one (especially when we consider the film length of 169 minutes).

Disc two contains five offerings that are all valid and directly related to this film or the particular battle of World War II. Itís also subtitled in five languages, which is an unusual treat. First comes the documentary Heroes From the Sky that runs for 44 minutes and is narrated by Burt Reynolds(!). Delivered in 4:3, it shows clips from the film at 2.35:1 (sans enhancement) and was made for the History Channel in 2001. It is quite interesting, though Burt sounds a bit slurred throughout as he narrates the entire campaign for us. This features some recent interviews with survivors of the fight, which is a real bonus.

Follow this treat with more of the same in another documentary. This oneís called A Distant Battle: Memories of Operation Market Garden and is narrated by James Coburn this time. Running for 17 minutes, this again contains film footage and a lot more survivor interviews. These interviewees all come from various arenas of the fight and itís good to get an all round perspective this way. A nice little doco - not too long and not too short. Richard Attenborough: A Filmmaker Remembers is the next piece, an 18 minute interview with the man himself. It's quite fascinating viewing as he discusses his disappointment at not getting Steve McQueen for a role in it, among other facts and figures about the filmís monumental production. This was only shot in 2002, so itís quite fresh and delivered in 4:3 with yet more non enhanced 2.35:1 film footage employed throughout. Mr A.ís eloquent voice does sound nice and clear here too.

Fourth in line is the theatrical trailer which runs for 3:07 and is in 16:9 enhanced 2.35:1. It's a little dinged up, as is usual for trailers, but still quite serviceable. Finally thereís a pretty weak photo gallery that has only 12 shots and runs for 30 seconds as a short black and white film. The documentaries really carry the extras here and for anyone interested in this particular failed mission, they will be invaluable.

  Overall  
Contract

A stirring and well made film that deserves any accolades still attributed to it, although at the time it was greeted coldly by the authorities in the biz. Still, as a war film itís magnificent and as an anti-war film itís even better. Flawless performances from the entire cast and directed with all the human emotion necessary for such a film, A Bridge Too Far is that rarest of stories in which the victors of the war (though not the battle) can look at themselves and see questions remaining. Admitting defeat is never easy for anyone, but to question themselves so readily is to accept their own humanity and that is the secret dynamic of this film. Itís a much better than average exploration of humanity in wartime and will remain as a classic testament to the futility of war and how it affects everyone involved.


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      And I quote...
    "As a war film A Bridge Too Far is magnificent and as an anti-war film itís even better."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Nintaus DVD-N9901
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Receiver:
          Diamond
    • Speakers:
          Diamond
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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