Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Bridge Too Far

American Movie Channel have done the great kindness of playing "A Bridge too Far" this afternoon.
This is my second favourite WWII movie, after The Longest Day. It is utterly brilliantly a movie about project management, something that dominated the last 15 years or so of my career in technology. And what the movie portrays are features that are utterly consistent across all attempts at this difficult task - over-optimism from the top, the stifling of dissenting views from below, and the complicit understanding from below that pessimistic dissent is simply not on.
As this movie progresses you see instance after instance of the lower-level management (command, I guess, in the armed forces) raising good questions and simply allowing them to be swept away by the sheer force of the high expectations of the higher levels.
And this is not nutty. There is a merit in the ignorant optimism of the higher levels of management - it allows companies (armies) to drive for greater objectives than the more realistic lower level command would ever believe in.
It breaks my heart to watch it as they came so close, and I know cases in my career where my lower-level skepticisms were proved utterly wrong, to the great benefit of my company. And it could have happened here too.
Of course the other great aspect of this movie is that they lined up an elite of the great performers of the mid-70s. An odd performance I would pick out is that of the very young Nicholas Campbell who is utterly compelling in his role.
Great movie. Thanks, AMC!

UPDATE: One thing they do well is convey the scale of the operations. There is a scene where the Michael Caine character looks into the sky full of airplanes and shakes his head, and his superior officer just comments "That's just the 101st". I feel privileged I have never had to see the like of that in my daily life, but I sure respect the commitment my forebears made on this.

UPDATE: Interesting. Which side has the human shields? Very intriguing movie.


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