Bridge of Spies (2015) Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda. IMDB says: “An American lawyer is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help rescue a pilot detained in the Soviet Union.”
Did you even know this was a film coming out? I hadn’t seen a single trailer or mention of this movie. Not a poster or tv spot or tweet. How? This is a Steven Spielberg film starring Tom Hanks. I did a quick search to see what some people were saying about the film online. Some say it’s the best of 2015. Some say it’s an Oscar contender for Hanks. It turned my curiosity into attention. Now, when I get into a theatre, one of the last things I do before I turn off my cell phone (because I’m not a mouth breathing animal) I look at the IMDB page and I check the run time. 2 hours and 21 minutes. Okay. Not Bad. Maybe there is a cool twist or maybe Tom Hanks dies like 40 minutes into the film. None of those things happened. Instead, we got a straightforward film about espionage in the cold war, and an ordinary man thrust into an extraordinary situation.
Bridge of Spies focuses on insurance agent James Donovan (Tom Hanks) One day he heads into work and his boss (Alan Alda) tells him there is someone there to see him. It’s someone from the government and they want him to be the defense lawyer for Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance, yeah, I don’t know him either) a man arrested for being a communist spy. Donovan kinda hesitantly agrees and takes on the case. Donovan actually tries to defend Abel but even the judge shuts him down denying motion after motion, making you wonder why bother having someone like Donovan defend this man they’re going to find guilty regardless of what happens. Meanwhile, we take a look into the hiring and training of some US soldiers who will be flying top secret planes over Russia and taking photographs. I think you can see where this is going. Judge finds Abel guilty but rather than sentence him to death, he puts him in prison. Some time goes by, and one of the US Soldiers is shot down and imprisoned by the Russians. A swap is suggested and who better to negotiate the terms than Donovan! Right? I don’t know. Inspired by true events, this film dances a line between drama and comedy and doesn’t even feel like a Spielberg film. It feels forced. The whole time, something felt off about the film. A joke didn’t land or a beat was missed by the audience. Something was a miss. So the film ends and the credits roll and then it hits me. The film was co-written by the Coen Brothers. I had the same feelings after watching Miller’s Crossing. I didn’t know if the film was a comedy or drama. I didn’t know what moments to take seriously and what moments to laugh at. Maybe, like most Coen Brothers films, there was a higher level of intelligence going on and it just went over my head.
Don’t get me wrong, Tom Hanks is great in this film. Honestly, he’s great in most of the films he’s in. The film looks good. It’s darker and colder, obviously to match the tone of the film with it begin set in the early 60s during the Cold War. The score is ultimately forgettable, but there is just something about the story. There are some turns this film takes that I didn’t feel made any sense, but, it’s inspired by true events. So you kinda have to play by those rules. I didn’t hate the film, but I think I’ll end up forgetting about it much like people have forgotten about the events this film is based on. One thing that stuck out to me is the timing of this film. There is a lot of discussion in the film and points made on how the government doesn’t act within the constitution. There is also a few points made about the 4th amendment. With the current atmosphere in America and all of these whistleblowers and NSA people reading our e-mails and listening to our phone calls, it makes you wonder what message the film is trying to shoe horn in. Maybe that’s just me.
Honestly, I’d wait and catch this on-demand or Netflix. When you do watch it, make sure it’s in a well-lit room, cause you might fall asleep otherwise.
Bridge of Spies is one of those movies that just sort of snuck up on me and I didn’t ever really hear much about it beforehand. I think I only ever saw one trailer for the film and I don’t even feel like there was a lot of marketing or at least not that I have seen. The trailer only came out at the beginning of summer and now the movie is here already, just in time for the looming awards season of course.
After the movie was over I left feeling like I wanted more out of the movie, but it never really delivered. Now, I’m not saying that the movie was bad because it’s not, but it’s just average. It was just Spielberg making a Spielberg film and Tom Hanks playing the everyman as he so often does, and is amazing at. Nothing really stood out directing wise or even acting wise, besides Rylance’s portrayal of Abel which was one of my favorite parts of the film. It just felt like the two were like “hey wanna make a movie,” and then just breezed through the filming not really having to give a terrible amount of effort.
When it comes to the story that the film tells I felt it was pretty interesting as I had never heard about the James Donovan dealings. The first act is by far the most interesting part of the film, focusing on Donovan taking the case of accused spy Rudolf Abel. In this act Donovan takes the case and gives it all his effort despite what everyone else thinks he should do, including taking the case all the way to the supreme court. Watching the relationship develop between Donovan and Abel during the proceedings was one of the most interesting parts of the movie in my opinion. The second act was strange and for the most part not a lot happens for the viewer to see. Most of the second act is Donovan negotiating a deal to make a trade for a captured U.S. pilot. Most of the time we just have Tom Hanks sitting around waiting while characters go off and relay messages. Then there’s a snag and Tom Hanks has to relay some more messages and make a new deal, and then we’re stuck watching him wait around again. Then we finally reach the third act where the negotiations come to a head and the trade takes place. The ending is a bit anti-climatic for the most part and there really isn’t the tension you are expecting for such a trivial situation. Finally Spielberg wraps up the movie with Donovan returning home and delivers a typical Spielberg ending, a happy score playing over scenes with little to no dialogue and giving you that “everything’s gonna be okay” feeling.
One thing that I was shocked to find out was that the film was co-written by the Coen brothers. This makes sense with the humor and wit that is intertwined into the script offering several laughable moments to lighten the mood.
I also enjoyed the way things were shot for the most part. The movie had a very Film Noir look to it at times, and if they had chosen to go black and white I think it actually would have looked more gorgeous. As a whole though this was a very Spielberg looking film including everything we love about him including plenty shots of “The Spielberg Face.” This might be the closest thing we ever get to a true Spielberg Noir.
Overall I think the movie was good and enjoyable, just not great. If you’re a Spielberg and Tom Hanks fan then I do recommend checking it out, really the only reason to go out of your way to see this in theaters.
FTS SCORE: 69%
Bridge of Spies is in theaters nationwide October 16, 2015.