Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Bridge of Spies (2015)






Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Scott Shepherd, Amy Ryan, Sebastian Koch, Alan Alda, Austin Stowell, Billy Magnussen, Eve Hewson, Jesse Plemons, Michael Gaston, Peter McRobbie, Domenick Lombardozzi, Will Rogers, Dakin Matthews, Stephen Kunken, Joshua Harto, Mark Zak, Edward James, Mikhail Gorevoy


During the Cold War, American lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy (Mark Rylance) in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U-2 spy-plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell).


Based on the trailer, I was expecting a film similar to Eastwood's "American Sniper", a film torn between being anti-war and pro-war, significantly tilted in favor of the United States. Well, I was surprised to discover that the film is, for the most part, an impartial view of the Cold War. However, it is not a masterpiece as many claim.

Spielberg's Bridge of Spies is indeed a film made of two uneven parts: a brilliant legal drama, and a less successful political thriller.

Matt Charman and the Coen Brothers seem to have got most of the facts right, and, although the film is obviously embellished, it works as an historical drama. Unfortunately, the story unfolds, and especially ends, in a too simplistic way, and therefore it is a little unrealistic. It is for this reason that the first part, the legal drama, stands on the second part, the political thriller, lacking a depth study and high tension -- this lack is mostly felt around Hanks's character: there's hostility, it's perceptible but it's not as high as it could have been. A real shame because the film did have the potential to be a masterpiece.

Another quibble is cinematography, which seems to be taken care of by two different people: in some scenes abounds the use of the annoying wide angle, while in some others everything is impeccable.

However, the film is beautifully done and it is provided with a higher truthfulness thank to the setting and scenery very well-constructed that really make you feel immersed in the time and place.

Going back to the tension, considering the film is made up almost entirely of dialogue - witty and enhanced by the terrific dark sense of humour of the Coen brothers -, the level of tension the film manages to reach is quite surprisingly.

Then there is the wonderful casting of Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance. Tom Hanks delivers a great performance, suiting very well in the role of the idealistic and tenacious lawyer doing everything in his power to defend "his guy". The other highlight in the cast is Mark Rylance, who also gives a great performance as Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. He transmits such serenity, and when he and Hanks are in the same room, just enjoy their chemistry. 


  1. I think your expectations let you down. Moreover why would you compare the Cold War with the wars waged by the US in the Gulf ('American Sniper' is similar to 'The Hurt Locker')? An ideological conflict and end of the world fears with real wars with real battles.

    Then you say 'impartial' which I, personally, find as a good thing, which should be given more points, moreover when a biased films receive 9/10. But also I would like to know more why you find it so impartial.

    For me it was one of the top films I saw in 2015. But then I watched with almost no expectations.

    And a commentary on the blog. The scoring is rather baffling if someone tries to search older entries. In different eras of this blog one may find different rating systems... 5 stars, 10-based, there were some people-based... and so on... I find it annoying. I would stick with one type and don't change it that often. Maybe that people-based was more personal to the blog, more... unique (or at least I don't recall seeing it elsewhere).

    1. I'd like to point out the fact that I did not compare the Cold War with the Iraq War. I said that, in part, I was expecting this film to be like the one that divided the audience. Only about being impartial, and not being sure if pro-war or anti-war.

      Yes, impartial is a good thing in an historical film, but American Sniper, to me, was more a film about a soldier, and the consequences of war on the soldier's mind, a man that has to kill also women and children. Was it wrong to portray Chris Kyle like some sort of saint? Yes. Was it wrong to portray Chris Kyle as good because American, and Mustafa as bad because non American? Yes.

      As for the scoring, I'm sorry if it annoys you, I'm working on that - and the some people-based are the guys from The Usual Suspects for your information. Also, since you have taken the trouble to go read my old reviews, you've probably seen that they were shorter and more superficial back then. Why don't point out that too?

    2. I guess I wasn't clear enough. Yes, you didn't compare them in your review rather your expectation were related with this film. So I wonder why would you expect similarities between so unalike events. The Cold War was not exactly a war with pro- or anti-war.

      If you want the smart-ass answer, because it's not the 'Praises for the Author Section'. Anyway, I have left a comment on 'Maleficent' (maybe a month ago) where I have noted that the structure has changed, evolved, and also the differences in rating system. Now your reviews are better than before which is not a reason to stop developing.

  2. I enjoy reading your review. I remember this when it happened so I look forward to seeing this. Oh...I like your scoring. I enjoy your take on films and look forward as a new follower to what you write

    1. Thank you, Birgit. I'm glad someone appreciates what I do.

    2. I do and I never get bothered by negative viewpoints-everyone is entitled to their opinion, I just ignore them:) Have a beautiful day!