Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA/United Kingdom, 1977. Joseph E. Levine Productions. Screenplay by William Goldman, based on the novel by Cornelius Ryan. Cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth. Produced by Joseph E. Levine, Richard P. Levine. Music by John Addison. Production Design by Terence Marsh. Costume Design by Anthony Mendleson. Film Editing by Antony Gibbs.
For a three-hour war film, it has to be pointed out that this film is surprisingly zippy and has very few points where it sags. It details the disastrous Allied attempt during World War II to get troops behind enemy German lines and capture a strategically important series of bridges which, thanks to bad communication, technical failures and a lack of foresight, turned into a bloodbath for the soldiers and a mess for the German side. The cast is peppered with stars, all of whom are terrific (with the exception of a very weak performance by Gene Hackman, whose accent makes no sense), but none of the characters have any depth to them and the whole thing feels very shallow. What keeps it going is director Richard Attenborough’s terrific pacing and the stunning photography that brings World War II combat to life so impressively; fleets of airplanes and parachutists abound in a film that must have been a nightmare to pull off in the days before computer technology made these things so much easier.