On Tuesday I finally got around to seeing “Bridge of Spies.
When I first so the preview for the movie over the summer I was mildly interested, mainly because I have a fascination with all the drama that came with the cold war.
I feel like if the movie had come out twenty or even ten years ago it would have been a huge hit. After all, it’s stars Tom Hanks and is directed by Steven Spielberg.
However, and I hate to admit this, the two of them have grown increasingly less relevant over the last decade. The fact that the film has only grossed $69 million domestically (it only cost $40 million so it has made a decent profit) and the fact that the only awards buzz is going to an actor that isn’t Tom Hanks speaks to how much these to have lost clout both at the box office and in the awards circuit. That’s too bad because the movie is very good, not great, but very good.
I think that we are so used to movies being edgy now that Steven Spielberg’s directing style doesn’t grab us the way it used to. That’s too bad because edge doesn’t always mean much when all is said in done. 2011’s “War Horse” was class Spielberg I’ve seen it several times and enjoy it each and every time.
“Bridge of Spies” is classic Spielberg as well. It has a great big heart at the center of it, in this case the center is about the ideals, if not always the practice, of The United States of America. The story centers around an Insurance lawyer named James B. Donovan (Hanks) who is assigned the thankless job of defending a man named Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylace) who is accused of being a Soviet Spy at the height of the cold war in the 1950’s.
As Donovan defends Abel the story gets more complicated as an American Pilot is captured by the Soviet Union and an American Student is captured by the East Germans. How will the events that are happening in the United States with Abel tie in with these events in Europe? That is the story that “Bridge of Spies” tell and it tells it quite well. The movie is quite entertaining and I think it is a great glimpse into the complexities of the cold war. I think it would be fantastic movie to show anybody born after 1985 or so who doesn’t remember what life was like during the 46 year conflict between the U.S.A and the U.S.S.R. Yet, the movie isn’t quite as thrilling as it should be or as it wants to be. John Williams didn’t score “Bridge of Spies” (he’s been a little busy with a little movie called “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) but Thomas Newman’s score is very Williamsesque. That is both good and bad. There are times when the score elevates the movie, but as too often the case with Spielberg movies there are times when the score overwhelms the movie.
As for the acting, Tom Hanks is solid as a rock. But the thing is like Spielberg it’s similar to what we’ve seen him do before. There’s nothing wrong with that but in a year when Michael Fassbender transforms himself into Steve Jobs (see my review on that film) and Eddie Redmayne again disappears into a character it’s going to take more to stand out for the 15 years in the making 6th Oscar nomination.
I absolutely get why Mark Rylance is getting lots of buzz, including a Golden Globe and SAG nomination, for his work. Rylance really is fantastic in his portrayal of able. Academy Award Nominee Amy Ryan has a small role but it’s just the background wife role. While fellow Oscar nominee Alan Alda plays yet another not so likeable supporting character.
This may not be the glowing review and maybe that’s just because Spielberg and Hanks have set the bar so high in their careers. At the end of the day I did enjoy “Bridge of Spies” and I do recommend it for anybody who likes Spielberg, Hanks or historical dramas about the cold war. It is still in a few theaters and I do think it would be a better experience on the small screen.
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