Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance
In UK Cinemas November 26th, 2015

by Joanna Orland

Through his prolific back catalogue of iconic movies, Steven Spielberg had already claimed the throne as our generation’s greatest filmmaker.  With cold war thriller Bridge of Spies, Spielberg cements his place in filmmaking history as a true master of the art.

This film is nearly faultless.  Taking on an old-fashioned filmmaking sensibility, the narrative and dialogue string this story together with each shot masterfully framed, the entire film perfectly paced.  Stylistically, this film could have been made in the 1940’s as much as it remains timeless today.  Story and characters at the forefront, the film is never flashy, some scenes even fading to black to keep its pace.

The story follows James Donovan (Tom Hanks), a New York insurance lawyer who becomes the legal representation of accused Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) and later the lead negotiator in the exchange of Abel for two Americans held captive by the Soviets.  Brilliantly cast as Donovan is Tom Hanks, a modern day Jimmy Stewart – who surely would have played Donovan had this film been made in his day. But more brilliantly cast is Mark Rylance who is excellent as the deadpan Soviet spy Abel.  He manages to gain audience empathy, as well as Donovan’s, while his underplayed performance brings the realism to this true story.  Rylance and Hanks play wonderfully off of each other, bringing sentimentality to this thriller.

While nearly faultless, the score and the ending of this film let it down.  Composer Thomas Newman’s piano score feels sappy at times, standing out from scenes and detracting from the drama at the core.  The ending of Bridge of Spies, along with the music, is sappy.  While the film never feels lengthy in spite of coming in at over two-hours-long, it overstays its welcome ending a few scenes too late rather than on the harrowing exchange between the Americans and the Soviets.  Sometimes an audience is better off not being given a neatly packaged ending.

In spite of these flaws, the film is otherwise engaging, masterful, cinematic perfection.  Spielberg has given us yet another lesson in filmmaking for the history books.



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