FF94 - The Bridge at Remagen

Intro by Adam Pranica

Bridges are finding their way into the premises of war movies all the time. We haven't even done half of the bridge-movies on our list! They are important in war because they become focal points. Strategically critical bridges make a nice easy microcosm of the larger conflict and become crucibles for the soldiers asked to take or defend them. Private Ryan was defending a bridge in our first episode, Colonel Nicholson went nuts and built a great bridge for the Japanese. Wars are just lousy with bridge-stories!

Today's film is from 1969 and it is right in the sweet-spot as far as Friendly Fire movies are concerned: It is George Segal, Ben Gazzara, and a bunch of salty American troops pushing into the fatherland and trying to cross the Rhine, while Robert Vaughn and the rest of the Germans try to stop them.

The Third Reich is on its heels and in that phase of the war where they really don't have the resources they need to keep up the fight properly, but also, if anyone makes any comments about that, it is considered to be somewhere between highly indecorous and treasonous. And yet, they are dug-in and dedicated and make life a real challenge for the Americans, so in a way the film forms a metaphorical bridge. It is the meat in the middle point as the Americans on their upward push into certain victory cross the Germans on their down-stroke to inevitable defeat.

We spend a lot of time on both sides of the river and it is fascinating to compare just the attitudes of the Americans, exhausted from the war, but still full of pluck, with those of the German officers who are still living in relative comfort in their own country, but are exasperated at the increasing insanity coming from the top. This is much lighter fare than the average early-in-the-war Germany-film. We are not talking about the Holocaust or anything like it. It is just a mission and it is a presentation of the challenges faced by both sides, the way the Germans lost, and the mirrored conflict within both armies.

Director John Guillermin achieves the near impossible: Cutting together a coherent and compelling story after one of the most legendarily nightmarish shoots in film-production history. Will you fight as hard as you talk? Today on Friendly Fire: The Bridge at Remagen.

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