Monday, April 14, 2014

A Bridge Too Far

Why I Saw This Movie
          Although I was familiar with this movie’s negative reputation, I still like overly-ambitious epic films.  Also the all-star cast made me think that, good or bad, I would have to check this film out at some point.  Finally, the events in this film were described in The World At War, which I just recently finished watching, so I figured now was as good a time as any to watch this film.

The Positives
* Whatever else you may say about this film, it’s incredibly ambitious, and I like ambitious failures better than films where it is obvious nobody was trying.

* The all-star cast is amazing: Robert Redford, Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, James Caan, Michael Caine, Elliot Gould, Lawrence Olivier, Maximilian Schell, Ryan O’Neal, Anthony Hopkins--and that’s not even counting people I didn’t recognize, but whom Wikipedia assures me were also famous.

* Now that everything is done by CGI, it’s amazing to go back to the battle scenes in these old epic films and imagine just how much effort it must have taken.

* The film ruins any kind of suspense it might have had by installing a sense of inevitability about the outcome right from the beginning.

* Part of the reason this film is such a mess is because it’s trying to tell the story of multiple military engagements—all under one umbrella plan, but each a completely different story in its own right.

* As a result of the multiple story lines being juggled, there are all sorts of characters, relationships, and minor plot points that are set up and abandoned.

* Related to the above point: poorly edited.

*Overloaded with War movie clichés

* Overloaded with British and American stereotype clichés.

* Doesn’t develop any of its characters, and then tries to derive pathos from their deaths.

* On the plus side, this movie has Gene Hackman.  But on the negative side, they’ve got him doing this fake Polish accent.

* If I’m going to go into my historical nitpicking mode, the opening narration claims that the invasion of Normandy was the turning point in the war, blatantly ignoring that Hitler’s armies had already lost in Russia before the British-American landing ever took place.

The Review
          In an historical drama, the ending is seldom a surprise.  But so what?  The same is true of most formulaic genre stories.  A certain amount of suspense can still be created in the storytelling by creating the illusion that multiple outcomes are possible.          This film has many faults, but its principle failing is that it installs a sense of inevitability right from the beginning.  Initially, there is heavy foreshadowing that the plan will fail.  And then we watch 3 hours of one thing going disastrously wrong after another, before the film finally ends up exactly where we thought it would.

3 out of 10.  (I’m somewhat fond of this film for the positive reasons listed above, but I can’t in good consciousness give it anymore than a 3 because of all the negatives.)



Darrell Reimer said...

So that was Polish Hackman was attempting? Hoo, baby. I wonder if he ever did anything like that afterward, or if his agent saw what happened and steered him clear of accents?

Yeah, the film's a mess. But you're right: there is something genuinely impressive about those epic action sequences. Nobody's pointing a gun at a blue-screen in these movies.

Have you read the book at all? William Goldman said he had to leave the most unbelievable stuff out of the screenplay, because it was just too crazy.

Joel said...

Yeah I know. When I first saw that Gene Hackman was in this movie I was like, "Awesome. I love Gene Hackman."

And then it was like, ", he's going to be doing that ridiculous fake foreign accent the whole time...Oh"

I've never read the book. But you've got me curious now.