was an enormous adaptation by director Richard Attenborough (Gandhi)
of Cornelius Ryan's novel and it features one the largest all-star
casts in cinematic history. The film explains the rendering of a daring,
but ultimately disastrous, raid behind enemy lines in Holland during
the Second World War, what became known as ‘Operation Market
Garden’. In an effort to end the war sooner, the Allied High
Command plans an attack that will drop thousands of paratroopers behind
enemy lines and then send the armour (XXX CORPS) in to meet up with
them and secure several strategic bridges.
film boasts an excellent cast full of big name stars such as Dirk
Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Edward Fox, Elliott
Gould, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Hardy Kruger, Laurence Olivier,
Ryan O'Neal, Robert Redford, Maximilian Schell and Liv Ullmann –
just the top line. It secured good reviews at the time and was a modest
success at the box office (competing with Star Wars!!). Lord Attenborough
however can still look back and know that it was a worthwhile project
despite the lack of obvious peer accolades. The film has been criticised
by reviewers because has so many stars and, despite runtime, limited
character development. I’m sorry but I just can’t agree.
I found myself easily getting attached to Connery, Caine, Hackman
and Hopkins characters.
the players do a brilliant job – for a film packed with big
name stars it has to be said there were no – ‘look at
me I’m the best’ performances – perhaps because
they were dealing with such as serious subject. Yet comedy still plays
a large part, mostly British ‘stiff upper lip stuff’ that
non brits will not readily identify with. Examples would be Connery's
response when asked if he wants a cup of tea or Hopkins batman wondering
why he’ll need a dinner jacket.
Fox gets a lovely opportunity to show why he’s such a good actor
with a great speech to his officers (that really occurred). Redford
leads a boat crossing reminiscent the charge of the light bridge (but
a little more successful) and Connery steals every shot he’s
in, making you really believe he is Major General Urquhart. Lord Olivier
plays a Dutch doctor (well he also has a Danish Knighthood) extremely
well and with great sensitivity.
have to say that it is small details that makes the movie for me,
the blood dripping onto the blood beside the child, the brave paratrooper
recovering the canister and Liv Ullmann reading to the dying soldier.
Beautifully shot with reasonable pace and the increasing sense that
this one may unravel means that, at least for this writer, the 3 hours
flies by. The sense of hopelessness is nicely described by one of
Connery adjutants when he states ‘it’s hard to stop tanks
with rifles and machine guns’ after they leant they’ve
landed on top of two SS Panzer divisions.