Steven Spielberg is the master of playing the entertainment spectrum. As a Director, the man can make intense, on the edge of your seat films (Saving Private Ryan and Raiders of the Lost Ark) or he can make emotional, dialogue driven films (Schindler’s List and Lincoln). However it may be, the man finds success in both categories and this speaks volumes about him, and every now and then, Spielberg will captivate audiences with a film that fits right into both niches. Insert Bridge of Spies.
Bridge of Spies is a semi-true story following a Brooklyn insurance lawyer, James Donovan (Tom Hanks) in the Cold War era. Donovan is a capable, well-spoken and persistent man who is damn good at his job. His skills call the attention of the US Government for a high-profile case involving the recently captured Soviet Union spy, Rudolf Abel.
Donovan takes Abel’s case, despite the overwhelmingly negative feedback associated with it. He sees it as an opportunity to not only represent the man, but the United States’ cause. However, during Donovan’s struggles with Abel’s court case, a US Pilot is shot down over Soviet Union territory and captured. This forces the United States to take action, putting Donovan to work with a high-profile exchange that could mean life or death.
Bridge of Spies is another wonderful film by Steven Spielberg. The film’s 141 minute run-time blew by thanks to wonderful editing, and a polished screenplay. Spielberg manages to allow long-winded dialogue sequences to be interesting without having them feel like they are over staying their welcome.
He has much thanks to give to the Coen Brothers who helped write the film. Scenes are usually set up with characters talking with each having something important to say (rather than push a plot along). Intense moments were met with well-timed comedic moments, which made for some realistic and dramatic situations.
The two standouts of the film are Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance. Hanks has done a great job of avoiding falling into being seen as an actor, rather than a character (insert Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise). Right off the bat, he feels like Jim Donovan, a smooth talking Brooklyn lawyer.
Mark Rylance’s performance very well might win him an academy award. Rylance’s Abel is a soft-spoken, well-mannered character that you quickly adore. The best moments in Bridge of Spies are when Hanks and Rylance work off each other. Donovan’s determination to seek proper justice and Abel’s uncanny support make the film feel fresh.
Bridge of Spies did not overload the US vs. Soviet Union in the conventional genre method. The US was not the ‘good’ guy and the Soviets were not the ‘bad’ guys. Spielberg, along with a well-mannered and smart script, managed to make each character a various shade of gray.
Russian spies were just like the American spies: doing their job out of honor, pride and duty for their country. The off-hand, almost easy to miss, social commentary is so well thought out. The level of intricacy in Bridge of Spies beats most Cold War thrillers that constantly smother the film with contrasts between cultures. Philosophically speaking, Bridge of Spies manages to maneuver moralities, while letting you see each side of right and wrong.
Bridge of Spies is a fascinating Cold War espionage thriller. In a genre filled with films that beat the message to a dead horse, Spies feels remarkably refreshing. This is in part to a fantastic, well-rounded script that pushes fantastic actors to give incredible, award-worthy performances; Bridge of Spies is one of the most memorable films of 2015.