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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

THE BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI -- Movie Review by Porfle

Director Mark Robson's THE BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI (1954) finds Grace Kelly in a role which barely gives her enough screen time to make an impression. She plays Nancy, the wife of fighter pilot Lt. Harry Brubaker (William Holden), currently assigned to an aircraft carrier in order to help fight the Korean War.

Nancy brings their two daughters to Tokyo to meet the carrier when it docks and give Harry a pleasant surprise, but their romantic reunion is interrupted when he must leave to rescue buddies Mickey Rooney and Earl Holliman (who saved Harry's life that very day when his jet went down in the freezing ocean) after the two helicopter jockeys land in the brig.

With little to do otherwise, Grace's best moment in the film is when her family ends up bathing nude with a Japanese family (as per local custom) and the result is a charming intermingling of disparate cultures.

Grace gets second billing here but it really belongs to Fredric March (THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES) as Rear Admiral Tarrant, who takes an interest in Harry since the young pilot reminds him of his son who was killed in WWII.

March is excellent portraying the wisdom and compassion of an officer with the responsibility of sending Harry and his fellow pilots on a highly dangerous mission to knock out the titular target (which could hasten the end of the war) while agonizing over their possible fate.

This film was produced during that magical Hollywood era when they could still make war pictures that were stirring and patriotic (instead of cynical and downbeat) while still exploring the human side of the soldiers involved--particularly their psychology and that of their loved ones, often encompassing feelings of disillusionment and isolation, with even a little existentialism thrown in.

"Militarily, this war is a tragedy" Admiral Tarrant laments at one point, while Brubaker (nicely played by a vibrant young Holden) feels cheated that this new war has forced him to give up the life he'd begun to forge after having already served in WWII.

Rooney and Holliman, two of my favorite actors, also give solid performances as the intrepid helicopter rescuers. They figure prominently in the film's exciting conclusion which, after some tense action aboard the aircraft carrier, comes to a head during the final thrilling raid on Toko-Ri.

This sequence is loaded with incredible aerial footage and top-notch special effects (reminiscent, I thought, of the rebel fighters' attack on the Death Star in STAR WARS) and is topped by a harrowing firefight on the ground in which the lives of our heroes are in grave jeopardy.

THE BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI may not be one of the all-time greatest of war films, but it's a solid, affecting effort that should remain in your memory for some time.

Read our review of the GRACE KELLY COLLECTION


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