Film Review: Bridge of Spies

In this world of big blockbuster franchises, small indies and the rest, it is a relief to find a great standalone film, that does what it says on the tin.

In this case, "cold war thriller".

Steven Spielberg is an old school director, who's mandate must be to put his quality stamp on every frame. It is clear that this film follows that same rule.

Then there is the screenplay, written by the academy nominated and won Coen brothers and a relative newcomer Matt Charman - every word serves to draw you straight into the world in fear, America in 1957, to be exact.
When a film, like this one, is based on a true story, there is always an extra layer of responsibility to not only accurately (as much as possible) portray what happened, but in such a way that can reach an audience and educate them. It is a true fact of life, those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.
The Coen brothers and Mr Charman have excelled in this area. A good thriller pushes you to the edge of your seat and keeps you there, a great one, like this one - does this and makes you think about the story itself long after the credits have rolled. Another great feat for the writers, this is a serious film, but there are moments of levity, which feel realistic for the period and the situation. And do a good job in lightening the otherwise intense scenes.

The cast is similarly top of the line, starting with Tom Hanks, one of the greats, who has the screen presence and gravitas to make a character like James B Donovan work.
A family man who works as an insurance lawyer, easy concept on the surface, but Mr Hanks gives the character a real depth and someone that you could easily meet on the street.
Its not just that Mr Donovan was a real person to portray, but that Mr Hanks gives the character itself real life qualities. As the character remarks in the film to the bureaucratic characters he encounters on a regular basis, "I just want to go home and sleep in my bed."

He has a job to do, one that's handed down to him. Not a easy or enviable task, represent the Russian spy, Rudolf Abel (here portrayed by Mark Rylance - another great) who has recently been arrested in America.

The job is given to him by Thomas Watters Jr (Alan Alda needs no introduction, he does an excellent job in everything) in the office where Mr Donovan works, as America has at least to be seen to using due process. The cold war is a theatre to the powers that be and everyone must play their part.

I will say no more on the story of this film, I will merely add that like other Spielberg films, the production values are very detailed, I am predicting awards for this, not just the acting, writing, directing, etc.
The rest of the cast, Billy Magnussen, Amy Ryan, Dakin Matthews, Scott Shepherd and Austin Stowell and everyone else listed - all pull their weight and give their respective characters weight and depth.
A considerable feat, for some are supporting roles, and have only a few scenes to make a mark on the viewer.

The score too, by Thomas Newman, heightens the films in just the right moments, giving those tense or light moments, that extra layer, as great scores do.

All in all, a seriously well made film and definitely one to watch. Multiple times.

Comments

  1. This quote comes from a serious film, that also manages to get in a few moments of levity.

    “Father Horvak: What's confusing you this week?
    Frankie Dunn: Oh, it's the same old "one God-three God" thing.
    Father Horvak: Frankie, most people figure out by kindergarten it's about faith.
    Frankie Dunn: Is it sort of like Snap Crackle and Pop, all rolled into one big box?
    Father Horvak: You're standing outside my church, comparing God to Rice Krispies?”

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