A Bridge Too Far 1977 ****

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Adapted from the book by Corneilus Ryan, who also wrote The Longest Day, Sir Richard Attenborough’s 1977 film is a true war epic, with William Goldman scripting an intricate, multiple character drama about the ill-fated Operation Market Garden as Allied troops attempted to push into Germany. A military disaster might sound like hard going for 175 minutes, but Attenborough and Goldman pull together a number of strong storylines, notably James Caan as a soldier who will not allow his friend to die, and Robert Redford as an equally determined Major.  Sean Connery, Ryan O’Neal, Gene Hackman and Laurence Olivier all contribute memorable bits, and A Bridge Too Far is one of the few war epics that stands up today, mainly because Attenborough sees far more going on here than just troop movements.

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Magic 1978 ***

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William Goldman’s excellent book, written with intimate, personal depth, was always going to be a tricky one to adapt, but Sir Richard Attenborough’s 1978 horror film makes the most of a creepy conceit, even if its misses the pathos. Anthony Hopkins plays Corky the ventriloquist who finds that his wooden pal Fats seems to be taking over his life, and stifling his hopes of romance. This conceit played beautifully in the classic portmanteau Dead of Night, and still works at feature-length, with good support from Burgess Meredith and Ann Margaret. Coming off the back of A Bridge Too Far, and working up to more epic Gandhi and A Chorus Line, Attenborough coaxes a complex, painful performance from Hopkins, who demonstrates why he’s been a sought-after talent for five decades.