A Bridge Too Far
'A Bridge Too Far' is a decent WWII film, ambitious yet uneven; a rental suggested.
Disc Release Date:
Despite initial low expectations, the Blu-ray release of 'A Bridge Too Far' impresses with a better-than-DVD quality, 1080p/MPEG-2 video, despite some blemishes and a muted palette. It's film-like with accurate fleshtones, though occasionally soft due to filters and weather effects, and suffers slight posterization and noise.
MGM's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track for an old film is front-heavy with minimal surround sound and some balance issues, yet offers robust bass and clean sound, despite its limitations and occasional distortions.
'A Bridge Too Far' Blu-ray lacks extras, featuring only the HD theatrical trailer, plus promotional spots for 'Windtalkers,' 'Flyboys,' and the unannounced 'Platoon' Blu-ray.
A Bridge Too Far," despite its all-star cast and ambitious portrayal of Operation Market Garden, struggles with pacing and coherence, yet captures the futility and spectacle of war.
Upon delving into the Blu-ray presentation of "A Bridge Too Far," expectations were tampered by its DVD predecessor, rendering a surprising improvement in visual quality an unexpected delight. Preserved at 1080p/MPEG-2, the transfer showcases the film's original 2.35:1 frame accurately, revealing a source that—despite minor speckles and occasional blemishes—maintains a commendable integrity. The color palette, while not vibrant, is executed with solidity and cleanliness, rendering flesh tones with appealing accuracy, albeit occasionally marred by bluish casts due to the application of tints and filters. This use of photographic techniques confers upon the image a soft, sometimes dreamlike aspect that, while detracting slightly from scene sharpness, contributes to an overall pleasing film-like aesthetic replete with satisfactory detail.
However, it is not without its drawbacks. The choice of MPEG-2 encoding invites notable criticism, particularly when pondering the potential benefits an AVC MPEG-4 encode might have furnished in terms of reduction in posterization and noise—artifacts that necessitate a scrupulous eye to identify, yet detract from the presentation upon detection. Moreover, the inherent soft-focus photography coupled with ambient elements like fog and rain intensify the challenge to achieve exceptional depth and sharpness. Despite these technical foibles, the transfer retains a commendably filmic quality that admirers of classic cinema might find both familiar and endearing.
In essence, while the Blu-ray presentation of "A Bridge Too Far" stands as a significant upgrade over its DVD counterpart, it is met with limitations inherent to its source material and chosen encoding method. The softness induced by stylistic choices and the occasional visual nuisances like posterization and noise might temper enthusiasm; however, the overall execution remains a testament to preserving the film's historical ambiance. As such, this release might best be appreciated as a careful balance between maintaining technological fidelity and honoring cinematic texture.
MGM's release of "A Bridge Too Far" on Blu-ray includes a primary DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 track at 16/48kHz that provides a commendable auditory experience for a film of its era, with additional audio options including an English Dolby Digital 4.0 track, a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448kbps, and a Spanish 1.0 dub at 192kbps. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 and Dolby Digital 4.0 tracks were specifically evaluated for this review. Notably, the DTS-HD track, while offering robust and clean bass and effectively spreading sound effects across the front soundstage, suffers from a lack of surround sound involvement, relegating the majority of the audio to the front three channels and resulting in a somewhat unbalanced listening experience. The low bass presents well despite its age, yet it, alongside the audio as a whole, lacks substantial depth below 40hz.
On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 4.0 track exhibits a top-heavy sound profile that also seems out of balance but in different respect to the DTS-HD track. Removing the LFE channel without adequately integrating its elements into the main channels contributes to this imbalance. Volume inconsistencies are present, particularly in the dialogue which tends to get lost beneath the overpowering effects and score, necessitating frequent volume adjustments to maintain an optimal listening level throughout the film. This issue, along with minimal use of surround channels which only sparingly enhance the score and effects, underscores the challenges faced in delivering a multidimensional audio experience.
While MGM's effort to remaster the soundtrack of "A Bridge Too Far" for Blu-ray is evident, listeners may find the presentation hindered by its front-heavy mix, limited low-frequency extension, and volume balance issues. Despite these setbacks, the track's clarity and dynamic range are appreciable, suggesting that—with tempered expectations—there is enjoyment to be found in the remastered audio, particularly for enthusiasts dedicated to experiencing this historic film with as much auditory detail as possible.
The extras segment of the "A Bridge Too Far" Blu-ray presentation can be regarded as minimalistic at best, focusing almost exclusively on the original theatrical trailer in full HD. While the trailer itself offers a nostalgic glimpse into the film's epic scale and ensemble cast, the additional content leans heavily towards promotional material for other MGM releases rather than expanding on the historic or cinematic significance of this war classic. Notably, it includes spots for "Windtalkers," "Flyboys," and "Platoon" - with the latter still pending its own Blu-ray announcement. This modest collection of extras may leave enthusiasts longing for more in-depth material related to "A Bridge Too Far" itself.
Extras included in this disc:
- Theatrical Trailer: The original theatrical trailer for 'A Bridge Too Far' in full HD.
- Promotional Spots: Spots for MGM Blu-ray releases 'Windtalkers,' 'Flyboys,' and the yet-to-be-released on Blu-ray 'Platoon.'
A Bridge Too Far," released in 1977 and adapted from Cornelius Ryan's 1974 best-selling novel, ambitiously attempts to narrate the complex saga of Operation Market Garden during World War II. This film is notable for its vast ensemble of star-studded cast including Sean Connery, Michael Caine, and Robert Redford, among others, who collectively manage to maintain a credible wartime atmosphere despite the film's deviation from historical events and the original book's narrative. Director Richard Attenborough endeavors to combine the grand spectacle of war with intimate human experiences, highlighted by the meticulous preparation for the airborne sequences filmed in September 1976, showcasing one of the largest airdrops filmed outside of actual combat.
Despite its high production values and dedication to authenticity—evident through its extensive cast and the detailed recreation of the times—the film faces critique for its pacing and narrative execution. The ambitious scope of depicting Operation Market Garden—intended as a rapid strategic movement to end WWII by capturing key bridges and cutting through German-occupied Netherlands—transforms into a dense narrative labyrinth, occasionally losing the viewer amid technical military jargon and complex strategy discussions. These elements contribute to a viewing experience that some may find laborious, despite the occasional brilliance of its set pieces and the poignant portrayal of both military and civilian toll.
Attenborough’s direction provides a mixed bag of sprawling war epic and fragmented storytelling, where emotional resonance is often sacrificed for factual and strategic exposition. Yet, "A Bridge Too Far" manages to achieve its thematic goal of illustrating the chaos, futility, and human cost of war without undermining the valor or integrity of its subjects. Its portrayal intersects grandiose cinematic ambition with stark reminders of war’s harsh realities—framed by significant moments like the troops singing "Abide With Me" or the portrayal of Allied soldiers' desperation. While not without its critics, the film's attempt to navigate the enormity of Operation Market Garden’s ambition, coupled with its profound reflection on the nature of warfare, ensures its place as a distinctive if not polarizing entry in the war movie genre.
A Bridge Too Far," despite its ambitious scope and star-studded cast, offers a middling experience that may not captivate all viewers immediately. Its narrative, though eventually gaining momentum, takes a noticeable time to engage the audience fully. Comparatively, it doesn't hold attention as firmly as "Battle for Britain," suggesting a potential preference in the war film genre for some. However, enthusiasts of World War II cinema might still find enough merit to appreciate its offerings. The suggestion to rent before purchasing stems from its polarizing nature, where individual taste greatly influences its value.
From a technical standpoint, the Blu-ray presentation of "A Bridge Too Far" is noteworthy. The film transfer displays remarkable sharpness, especially considering the film’s vintage, showcasing the production's ambitious and sprawling wartime sequences with clarity. However, the audio quality presents inconsistencies, particularly in volume levels, which could detract from the immersive experience intended. Furthermore, the Blu-ray package's lack of supplementary content is a missed opportunity, detracting from its appeal, particularly when considering its higher price point. This aspect may limit its desirability primarily to diehard fans or collectors of WWII films.
In conclusion, while "A Bridge Too Far" is an epic representation of World War II that will please genre aficionados, its overall impact is somewhat diluted by pacing issues and a steep learning curve. The Blu-ray edition, although technically proficient in video quality, is marred by audio inconsistencies and a notable absence of extras, making it difficult to justify its purchase at full retail price. Prospective buyers should consider a rental as an initial approach to gauge personal enjoyment before committing to its addition to their collection.