Bridge Too Far is a 1977 epic war film based on the 1974 book of the same name by Cornelius Ryan, adapted by William Goldman. It was produced by Joseph E. Levine and Richard P. Levine and directed by Richard Attenborough.
The film tells the story of the failure of Operation Market Garden during World War II, the Allied attempt to break through German lines and seize several bridges, including the road bridge over the Lower Rhine at Arnhem, in the occupied Netherlands, with the main objective of Allied armour outflanking the Siegfried Line at its northern extremity.
The name for the film comes from an unconfirmed comment made by British Lieutenant-General Frederick Browning, deputy commander of the First Allied Airborne Army, who told Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, the operation's architect, before the operation, "I think we may be going a bridge too far."
The ensemble cast includes Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Edward Fox, Elliot Gould, Anthony Hopkins, Gene Hackman, Hardy Krüger, Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford, and Maximilian Schell. The music was scored by John Addison, who served with XXX Corps during Market Garden.
The film begins with a montage of archival film footage narrated by a Dutch woman, Kate ter Horst (Liv Ullmann), describing the state of affairs five years into the war. D-Day had come and gone and the Allies are bogged down by overextended supply lines. Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower had to decide between U.S. General George S. Patton and British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, each of whom had competing plans for ending the war quickly, and being the first to get to Berlin. Under political pressure, Eisenhower chose Montgomery's Operation Market Garden. In September, 1944, the Allies are advancing but have paused in Belgium, near Lommel.
A Dutch family, part of the Dutch resistance underground, observes the German withdrawal toward Germany and awaits the impending arrival of Allied forces. Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt (Wolfgang Preiss) arrives in the Netherlands and discovers he has few resources in men or equipment and morale is very poor. The underground resistance leader (Siem Vroom), along with his 13-year old son (Erik van 't Wout), keep careful notes of German troops evacuating throughout Arnhem, information he will later pass on to the Dutch resistance.
Operation Market Garden envisions 35,000 men being flown 300 miles from air bases in England and being dropped as much as 64 miles behind enemy lines in the Netherlands. The largest airborne assault ever attempted, with Lieutenant-General Frederick Browning (Dirk Bogarde) saying, "We're going to lay a carpet, as it were, of airborne troops, over which XXX Corps can pass," and confidently suggests that "We shall seize the bridges - it's all a question of bridges - with thunderclap surprise, and hold them until they can be secured"by the 20,000 vehicles led by XXX Corps. Arnhem's bridge crosses the Lower Rhine, the last major river between the Allies and the German heartland, and seizure of the bridge will allow vast Allied armies to turn east into Germany.
The plan is to begin in seven days time, with XXX Corps reaching Arnhem two days after the drop. The 101st Airborne Division, under Major General Maxwell D. Taylor (Paul Maxwell), is responsible for the road and bridges from the north side of Eindhoven to the south side of the Meuse River at Grave. The 82nd Airborne Division, under Brigadier General James M. Gavin (Ryan O'Neal) is responsible for the bridge crossing the Maas, and from the north side of the Maas to the north side of the Waal River bridge, just north of Nijmegen. The British 1st Airborne, under Major-General Robert E. Urquhart (Sean Connery) is to land northwest of Oosterbeek, and take and hold the north side of the Lower Rhine River to the bridge at Arnhem. Polish Major General Stanisław Sosabowski (Gene Hackman) will lead the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade to secure the south side of the Lower Rhine and make contact with Lieutenant-Colonel John Dutton Frost (Anthony Hopkins), and Second Battalion, who is to work his way east along the banks of the river. XXX Corps, led by Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks (Edward Fox), and spearheaded by Lieutenant-Colonel John Ormsby Evelyn Vandeleur (Michael Caine) on point, are to cross the Maas-Schelde Canal on the north side of Lommel and push up the road, as quickly as possible, to Arnhem.