Hot Take: Catch it now… or when it’s re-released after it’s Oscar nominations. With the exception of a few stutters, Bridge of Spies is a thoroughly enjoyable throwback. Credit Steven Spielberg for a solid directorial turn, the Coen Brothers for an excellent script and some great performances. Pencil in Mark Rylance for a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as captured Russian spy Rudolf Abel.
To be honest, I was lukewarm on the concept of Bridge of Spies. The trailer didn’t blow me away and while the expectation was a competent film from Spielberg and Tom Hanks, this may have been their best collaboration (for what it’s worth, Saving Private Ryan was the best of their four collaborations, Bridge of Spies was second best). Not only was the film a pleasant surprise, it was one of the best movies of the year and might make a little noise come Oscar nominations.
The most pleasant surprise of the film was Rylance as Abel. He’s convincing as the aging spy and his chemistry with Hanks is evident. His dry humor adds levity to the Cold Was spy thriller. Actually, as good as Hanks is in the film, the supporting cast deliver strong performances across the board.
Bridge of Spies is classic moviemaking. If teachers taught history the way Spielberg does in the theater, we’d all want to be historians. The patriotism of the movie is impressive in a way most patriotic films aren’t. Typically, patriotic films demonize the enemy yet Spielberg never casts a stone but rather shows off the glass house we lived in during the Cold War while celebrating the American justice system.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Tom Hanks, the Everyman
There isn’t a more appropriate actor in Hollywood to play a character you want portrayed as an everyman. Even though James Donovan’s back story is glossed over to give the character an even bigger boost as an ordinary Joe, it’s Hanks’ portrayal that seals the deal. Over the years, Hanks has perfected the skill and might be rewarded with a Best Actor nomination.
- It’s Smooth and Subtle
Spielberg’s directorial style is evident throughout and the movie delivers a satisfying tale. The film deftly shifts tone with elements of action, humor and tension. For the most part, the movie never drags which is not an easy feat with a 2+ hour length and that is due to the ability Bridge of Spies has to weave in an out of these various elements.
- Setting the Mood
Having grown up during the back end of the Cold War, it’s hard to imagine the tension felt by those who lived during the heart of it. Fortunately, Spielberg is able to recreate the tension and give the audience that feel for the duration of the film.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Spielberg and the Coen Brothers Cheated a Little
To amp up the tension a little, there are a few embellishments. (Check out the History vs. Hollywood breakdown but beware of spoilers!)
- At 2+ Hours, It Falls Victim to the Occasional Headwind
There is a moment or two where you might drift which is why Bridge of Spies is not the best film of 2015 but still is one of the best of 2015.