Bridge of Spies (2015)
Back in 1957 during the hight of the Cold War, a Russian Spy by the name of Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is caught and put on trial. The CIA personally asks insurance lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) to give the appearance that Abel is getting a “fair and just” trial in the public eye. Donovan soon realizes that spy or not, Abel is no threat to the United States and wishes fairness for him. Not long after, an American spy plane is shot down over the Soviet Union and Donovan is again asked to intervene. This time, his task is to facilitate a trade, Abel for the American.
Directed by Steven Spielberg (Lincoln, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List), Bridge of Spies is a historical look during a tense and stressful time in the United States. Just as the Cold War played out, this movie is more about what could happen than what actually does happen. Don’t get me wrong, Bridge of Spies is a very good and engaging movie, but when it is all said and done, I was left wanting more.
When a movie has the name “Spy” in the title, you almost have to expect espionage with plot twists and double-crossing at every corner. That is the way we are trained to think with movies such as James Bond in existence. Bridge of Spies is a different cookie altogether because it is about the men accused of being spies rather than their actions. It is about the way we looked at Germany and Russia during the Cold War. It is about trust, loyalty and justice.
From beginning to end, just as we always expect from him, Tom Hanks is charming and great. Without him, this movie would surely fall through the cracks, but he gives an expected performance and it stands up perfectly. Spielberg again tackles a historical topic and makes it look easy as nothing seems out-of-place. When a movie makes you want to do research on the subject when the movie is over is a movie done well. My only gripe with the movie, and it is minor, is that Bridge of Spies is straight forward with hardly any deviation from the main idea. It is simple in nature and easy to understand, but it’s predictable and that element took much of the surprise out of it for me. Again, Bridge of Spies is well made, but not memorable as I was hoping.
At the end of the day, Bridge of Spies is going to be a movie people enjoy and learn from. If any 2nd or 3rd tier director had made this movie, it would be their shining star, but because Spielberg made it, Bridge of Spies might be his #10 best movie and that is a shame. The truth is, Bridge of Spies is going to be forgotten due to its lack of memorable scenes and straight forward plot. It might have some staying power due to the names attached to it, but sadly, Bridge of Spies is just another “good movie” with not much more to add. Co-starring Alan Alda, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Austin Stowell, Dakin Matthews, Sebastian Koch and Will Rogers.
7/10 Stars – Although tense and well made, Bridge of Spies is simple and predictable with nothing memorable about it.
Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies might not be what most have come to expect from him but it is ripe with subtleties and powerful undertones that make it a great film worth watching. Based on true events, Bridge of Spies isn’t packed with action or even drama really it feels real throughout. The power behind its greatness is two-fold. The first is in the subtle undertones that Spielberg plays out. The emphasis on loyalty, patriotism, principles etc. These are the backbone of the film’s lessons for its audience.
The second reason Bridge of Spies is so great in my mind is because of the performances of Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance. Both are film veterans so I expected nothing less than perfection when it came to their performances but they deliver well beyond expectations. Without either one the film would be good but easily forgotten. Hanks and Rylance carry powerful meaning in every look and behind every word they utter. More importantly for me as a viewer they brought a sense of comedic relief that was unexpected and just well down right funny. Believe it or not I laughed out loud several times while watching this historical drama. Not a common occurrence for this type of film I would think.
When it’s all said and done Bridge of Spies probably won’t go down in the film annals in the top ten Spielberg or Tom Hanks films. It will however probably gain a few award nods and entertain quite a few people. It delivers everything you expect from a historical drama with the added touch of Spielberg to make it not just good but great. Still I have to agree with my fellow reviewer and say that I don’t think this will be a memorable one but it is most definitely worth the trip to the theater to see.
8/10 – Surprised me in many ways and was riveting to the end but not one I would feel the need to see again any time soon.