Saturday 13 May 2023

Movie Review: The Bridges At Toko-Ri (1954)

Genre: War Drama
Director: Mark Robson
Starring: William Holden, Grace Kelly, Fredric March, Mickey Rooney
Running Time: 102 minutes

Synopsis: During the Korean War, Lieutenant Harry Brubaker (William Holden) is a Navy pilot serving on the USS Savo Island aircraft carrier. Returning from a mission, Brubaker has to ditch in the ocean and is rescued by helicopter pilot Mike Forney (Mickey Rooney). While on leave in Tokyo, Brubaker enjoys a reunion with his wife Nancy (Grace Kelly), but his commander Admiral Tarrant (Fredric March) then selects him for a dangerous mission to bomb the strategically important but well-defended Toko-Ri bridges.

What Works Well: James Michener's story is loosely inspired by actual events, and director Mark Robson seeks balance between the mechanics of aircraft carrier operations and fatigue with a far-away war failing to captivate the home front. The military hardware glistens in the sun and the engines roar with satisfying thrust, but the toll on the human psyche and the anti-war message also surface with blunt eloquence. The tone builds on elements of Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo and Twelve O'Clock High before delivering a wallop-packing final chapter.

What Does Not Work As Well: The first two thirds are patchy and meander in search of a direction, too many shots invested in aircrafts maneuvering on, off, and around the carrier deck. The performances are perfunctory at best, the humans taking a back seat to the equipment. The mission planning details are hard-boiled and delivered with notable disinterest.

Conclusion: Just as men can plot to damage bridges, war can damage men.

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