Bridge Of Spies
Cert: 12A / 141 mins / Dir. Steven Spielberg / Trailer
Ah, the Cold War, those were the days. Remember when you could have a long-term international stand-off based purely on fear, suspicion and non-racial xenophobia? The days when ideas alone were just as dangerous as actions? Y'know, before it all got a bit too heated?
Well, our Steven remembers, and he's brought us a film all about Jim Donovan, the US Insurance Lawyer who was tasked in 1960 by the government to negotiate with the Soviet/East-German authorities for the release of US spy-plane pilot, Francis Powers, in exchange for one of their captured snoops, Rudolf Abel. Armed largely with determination, an intricate understanding of American law and a compassion often absent from his colleagues in the CIA, Donovan also attempts to barter for the release of American economics student, Frederic Pryor, from the West-Germans. What? A two-for-one spy-swap, you say? But that's crazy! Will he succeed..?
Well, this is a Steven Spielberg film…
Okay, maybe I've been overly flippant about the whole thing, and Bridge of Spies is definitely a story worth telling. The film is earnestly made, and while it occasionally gets a little too hand-wringy, it's nowhere near as mawkish as the likes of War Horse. Fantastic performances from Tom Hanks (as the lawyer) and Mark Rylance (as the Soviet spy) make it all worthwhile, as do the occasional moments of wry wit. The pacing's a little patchy however, as is the notation of the passage of time.
There's also the feeling throughout that Spielberg's holding back; that a quiet respect for the factual events and the people involved is preventing this from being a more dynamic and entertaining film. At the same time, much of the political and historical minutiae is merely sketched in (as is a dazzling array of accents), so the final movie can't really be held up to Lincoln as a semi-educational piece, either.
What comes across the strongest is the story's ethical/humanitarian message, and while it's delivered from the heart, I think Spielberg may be preaching to the choir for the most part. This isn't the Oscar-bait of a January release, but nor is it an intricate legal/espionage drama in the run-up to Holiday Season.
Had it been an entirely fictional story, Bridge Of Spies could have gone further and been a great movie; although it's still a good one in the meanwhile…
For most audiences, not quite.
Unless you're a massive fan of Hanks or Rylance, this will be a rental.
Best, I couldn't say, but incredibly solid, certainly.
It does, but in a rather staid fashion.
(And there's one bloody perfect moment for it, too.)
Bridge of Spies is directed by that Steven Spielberg who also made those Indiana Jones movies starring that Harrison 'Solo' Ford bloke.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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