One of the biggest budget war movies of all time, 1977's A BRIDGE TOO FAR is an all-star, massive film nearly as big as the operation it depicts.
In 1944, with the Germans retreating faster than the allies can advance, Eisenhower is presented two plans to end the war, one from each of his battling Generals, Patton and Montgomery.
He goes with Montgomery's Operation Market Garden, which sees the allies dropping 35,000 paratroopers 50 miles behind enemy lines and then driving another 50 miles and capturing multiple bridges along the way to cut off Nazi supply lines.
Its big, its bold and its going to be much more difficult than anyone imagines when the Germans decide to plan two tank divisions in one of the towns along with way for some rest and relaxation.
There are standouts among the cast, including Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Elliot Gould, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford and Maximillian Schell.
Poor Gene Hackman is saddled with a very bad accent as a Polish Major General, Ryan O'Neal is pretty one note and Liv Ullmann and Laurence Olivier are relegated to the background, but James Caan has some nice moments as a solider with a commitment and heart.
Director Richard Attenborough (Gandhi, Chaplin) stages the massive action scenes really well, creating real tension in some of the large scale attacks. The dropping of 35,000 men out of the sky is still a terrific scene, the sheer scale of it carrying the first half of the film.
At nearly three hours, the film is stately but never boring, constantly popping back and forth to the different battle fronts as our Allied teams battle to complete the mission.
Watch closely for John Ratzenberger in a small part. Pre-"Cheers" this guy had a great agent, playing in a ton of great films of the era, including "Superman", "The Empire Strikes Back" and this big summer movie in 1977.
With a $26 million budget (that's a LOT of cash in the mid seventies!) the filmmakers don't hold anything back in their depiction of this ambitious mission to hasten the end of World War II.
Knowing this was Montgomery's battle operation, it makes me want to go back and watch "Patton" again and compare the two's approaches to battle. Based on the two films, I think my money would be on Patton as a strategist.
It's a great tribute to the fighting men of the Allied Forces, and on this Memorial Day 2016, nearly 40 years after its release in theatres, gets a solid B.