Year : 1977
Director: Richard Attenborough.
Producer: Joseph E. Levine and Richard P. Levine.
Script: William Goldman from the book by Cornelius Ryan
Cinematography: Geoffrey Unsworth
Music: John Addison
This was an enormous
adaptation by director Richard Attenborough (Gandhi) of Cornelius Ryan's novel.
It features one the largest all-star casts in cinematic history. It explains
the rendering of a daring, but ultimately disastrous, raid behind enemy lines in
The 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
All 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 identiy with. Examples would be Connerys response when asked if he wants a cup of tea or
Edward Fox gets a lovely
opportunity to show why he’s such a good actor with a great speech to his
officers (that really occurred).
I 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.
A finally note should be made of Attenborough’s attention to historical detail. From the weapons they use such as the Piat against the tanks, to the type of house to house street fighting, Major Gen Urquhart getting cut off and the Germans finding the allied plans. Seldom have I know a film that claims to follow a true story that has such rigorous attention to historical events.
On a final military note
John Addisons music score will have you humming along for a number of days and the CD is well worth buying. Oh and the Sspecial Edition DVD is just out.