"Market Garden" -- the brainchild of glory-hungry Field Marshal Montgomery -- was intended to hasten German collapse on the Western front by landing paratroopers in Holland, who would then seize key bridges over the Rhine and, aided by fast-moving columns of infantry, open the path to Germany's industrial heartland. A combination of bad luck (including fog that delayed the dropping of additional supplies to the advance units) and, more to the point, slipshod planning and logistics (intelligence failures, radios that didn't work properly, and unrealistic timetables for moving along narrow roads) left small bands of Allied soldiers at the mercy of an enemy that proved to be better prepared and equipped than anticipated. Bridge focuses in particular on the British paratroopers in Arnhem, under the command of Lt. Col. Frost (Anthony Hopkins), who do their stiff-upper-lip derndest to take the bridge and hold off the advancing Germans but are eventually forced to capitulate. Their commander General Urquhart (a super-stalwart Sean Connery) barely manages to get back to safety, but without 8,000 of the 10,000 troops that began the assault. The Americans, who played a supporting role, come off better on screen, especially the cigar-chomping Col. Stout (Elliott Gould), whose men rebuild a blown bridge in double-quick time, and a sergeant (James Caan) who gets a wounded officer back to the medics against all the odds. This last incident seems to have dropped in from a different movie, bearing more of a resemblance to the closely focused personal stories in Saving Private Ryan than the "big-picture" heroics and follies that constitute most of the on-screen action. Gene Hackman provides an unexpected (and unintentional) note of levity as a Polish colonel with an hilariously bad accent. (To be fair to Gene, however, he probably was told to "sound Polish!" and little else.) In contrast to a movie like, say, The Guns of Navarone, the German soldiers who are charged with fighting off the attack are characterized as decent men who respect the rules of warfare. SS Panzer Corps C.O. Bittrich (Maximilian Schell) is portrayed particularly positively, allowing the British in and around Arnhem to evacuate their wounded.
Unfortunately, Netflix only sent us the DVD containing the movie itself; there is apparently a two-disc set out there with lots of extras, but ours was strictly a "plain vanilla" viewing. Bridge has grown in stature since it was released, with many now calling it the last great war movie until Private Ryan came along. It's certainly worth seeing if you're interested in the history of WWII, and even if you just want to see what an "all-star" cast really meant back in the day.