BEFORE: From World War I pilots, I move on to World War II soldiers. Darn, it's not even Veterans' Day or Armed Forces Day, but I needed the link that would get me to "The Long Goodbye", as a follow-up to "Marlowe". Robert Redford carries over from "The Great Waldo Pepper", and I think I'm finally done with Redford movies. Of course, I've said that before.
With such a large cast tonight, it almost seems a shame to use this film just as a "Bridge" between Robert Redford and Elliott Gould. But that's how this goes - it's not like I have a lot of Sean Connery or Anthony Hopkins films left on the watchlist, I've covered those actors quite thoroughly already. Still, it does seem rather pedantic of me, I'm used to much more elegant connections. Oh, well.
THE PLOT: The Allies attempt to capture several strategically important bridges in the Netherlands in the hope of breaking the German lines.
AFTER: My first thought is that military strategy is akin to boxing or playing poker - it's something I see a lot of in movies, but the main thing I understand about it is that I don't fully understand it. I realize that soldiers, tanks and ammunition have to get to certain places, but mostly it all remains a big mystery. This film sort of mentions the supply lines that were established, getting things to Patton's troops and also Montgomery's, but it doesn't really go into great detail.
I get that it was all about bridges, as there tended to be a lot of those in Holland, and controlling bridges means controlling supply lines, as well as being able to advance troops or prevent the enemies from retreating (how am I doing so far?). But there are like 10 or 12 bridges in this film, and "Operation Market Garden" attempted to take them all simultaneously, sending a different division (led by a different Hollywood star) to handle each one. And I get that they were all different distances from Arnhem, but let's pretend for a minute that I don't know where Arnhem is. You know what really might have helped me? Some kind of map on-screen so I could keep track of where each bridge was.
Second problem - the film is too long. It runs nearly three hours, but I can't really complain about that because World War II was what, 8 years long? (Four if you're American...) And this stuff is history, so I tend to think that's important. Honestly, the first hour was a real slog for me and I think I drifted off several times, but once the gunfire and explosions started up, it was a lot easier for me to stay awake.
What I can complain about is - and this is ironic given that the Allies' plan was guilty of the same thing - that the film tried to do too much. It tried to be everywhere at once and keep me updated on the progress of three or four operations at a time. Focus, damn it! You can imply the big if you can just focus on the small. And I know that all of these operations might have been going on at the same time, which is brilliant from a military angle, but darn confusing from a narrative P.O.V.
It looks like another evening on Wikipedia for me, trying to parse out exactly what happened when during the film, and also what happened when during the real battles.
Also starring Sean Connery (last seen in "Never Say Never Again"), Ryan O'Neal, Gene Hackman (last seen in "Downhill Racer"), Michael Caine (last seen in "The Muppet Christmas Carol"), Anthony Hopkins (last seen in "Noah"), James Caan (last seen in "Irma La Douce"), Elliott Gould (last seen in "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice"), Edward Fox (last seen in "The Importance of Being Earnest"), Laurence Olivier (last seen in "Henry V"), Dirk Bogarde, Maximilian Schell (last seen in "Julia"), Liv Ullmann, Ben Cross (last seen in "Turbulence"), Denholm Elliott (last seen in "September"), Garrick Hagon (last seen in "RED 2"), John Ratzenberger (last heard in "Planes: Fire & Rescue"), Wolfgang Preiss, Hardy Kruger (last seen in "The Flight of the Phoenix"), Jeremy Kemp, Walter Kohut, Michael Byrne, Paul Copley, Nicholas Campbell.
RATING: 5 out of 10 drop zones