Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies

Movie Review: Bridge of Spies *Hanks, Spielberg and Cold War Cloak & Dagger*

Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies
Remember when Spielberg films were events? A new film by Steven Spielberg was the equivalent of a MCU film, a Star Wars film, because we knew something amazing was going to happen.  Last week, Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies opened with $15.9 million and got beaten by Jack Black’s Goosebumps.  What changed? Well, frankly, Spielberg did. He stopped evolving as a developer, forgot how to conjure the magic from deep within our childhoods and flat out did not know how to end one of his movies to save his life.

Mark Rylance, Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies

His last film, Lincoln, should be a classic. Daniel Day-Lewis turned in one of the most amazing performances by any actor I’ve ever seen, period. The film, though, is bookended by a beginning so laughably childish it would be out of place in a 3rd grade play and an ending that muddied the point of the entire film and added another 20 minutes to an already weighty endeavor. So, it’s a shame the public, after more than a decade of Spielberg underwhelming, has caught on, because Bridge of Spies is his best film since, probably, Catch Me If You Can.

Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies
In the late 1950’s US authorities apprehended a Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Ryalnce, who steals this film). Since no one wanted to defend him, the court asked the American Bar Association to volunteer someone and they shoved insurance lawyer James P. Donovan (Tom Hanks) into the role. Roughly a few years after Abel’s trial, Soviets shot down an American spy plane over Russian airspace and sentenced the pilot, Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell), to 30 years in prison. Donovan is soon approached through back channels about a possible prisoner exchange and the setting then shifts to a split Berlin and a high-stakes poker game between two superpowers to get their respective people home.

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

The plot is dense, is what I’m saying. That summary was about as simple as I can make it, and should make it, because this is a film that’s primarily taking place in courtrooms and boardrooms. The Coen Brothers wrote the script for the film, and if you’ve ever wondered what a Coen-written, Spielberg-directed film felt like…well, it feels like none of them. One of the reasons this is the best Spielberg film in over a decade is that there’s nothing remotely in it that makes you feel like it’s a Spielberg film. This is the first film he’s done in 30 years that John Williams hasn’t scored (Williams was busy with Star Wars Episode VII) and they’re such a team that removed of that sound, really all you’re left with is the cinematography of his other longtime collaborator, Janusz Kaminski, to denote Spielberg’s presence.

Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies

The cast is a great ensemble.  Hanks has to carry the great part of the film and does so with the aplomb we’ve come to expect. He and Richard Ayer have some really beautiful scenes as a friendship forms between this insurance letter and a Soviet spy. The Coens give Hanks some great monologues, timely reminders and funny ajoinders.  It’s a shame there’s no real soul to the film, but the acting and the amazing story itself make it a film not to be missed. I just wish I could report that the film is really good because Spielberg’s back, but it’s more true that the film succeeds in spite of him.

4 thoughts on “Movie Review: Bridge of Spies *Hanks, Spielberg and Cold War Cloak & Dagger*”

  1. Spielberg is Peter Pan. Always was, still is. He was born to make us feel childlike wonder. But his heart is just not in that kind of movie anymore. He’s fighting who he is. He wants to make complex, “mature” movies now, and it’s just not him. I’m obviously not saying he’s incapable of making films for adults. Schindler’s List is about the heights to which the human spirit can ascend in the face of the depths. It’s Spielberg all the way. Lincoln was not. BOS is not. Tintin, War Horse and Crystal Skull felt like faux Spielberg, but I really don’t think he’s lost it. From the interviews I’ve read he’s simply not into that kind of film anymore.

    Lincoln and BOS both the same movie, they’re about characters resorting to the slippery art of negotiation to achieve noble ends. I loved BOS. Steve needs to learn to end his movies sooner (we both know which shot should have been the last one) but it was unexpectedly fun. It didn’t feel like Steve, except when it went overboard with sentimentality at the end, but I’m wishing it well.


      1. First comes BFG. Written by Melissa Matheson no less.

        His heart had better be in that one!


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