I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
Spielberg and Hanks, Coen #1 and Coen #2. Director and Actor, Writer and Writer. Two separate, highly successful double acts, joined together at last for a Cold War epic thriller. Surely this has gotta be good.
Bridge of Spies tells the story of an insurance lawyer played by Tom Hanks who is assigned to defend a man, played by Mark Rylance, whose been accused of being a Soviet Spy. In 1957, Hanks’ character’s got one tough job.
When I say that this movie was written by the Coen brothers, that is not the whole story. It was written by them and Matt Charman whose work includes Suite Française and some uncredited touching up on the terrible screenplay to Roland Emmerich’s 2012. Thank goodness, his abilities were able to gel with those of two academy award winning writers.
Bridge of Spies is a testament to what great writing can do to a subject that could go one of two ways, dull or exhilarating. How these writers managed to balance the seriousness of the subject matter and the humour that can blossom between the soldiers in this war of the words is an absolute marvel. (I think you can count more than one pun in that last sentence.)
The Cold War was a battle of ideas, of ways of life. Where people from both superpowers would go to another country and fight it out through middlemen. What this film captures at times is how barbaric this, on the surface, rather peaceful and mature conflict was.
Steven Spielberg is at the helm of this movie. Like with Lincoln, he makes the act of making political maneuvers sounding interesting look easy. It really isn’t and that’s why he is still one of the greatest directors of our time, regardless of his image as “the guys who makes movies for the masses”. (Don’t go bringing up Crystal Skull, whatever problems there were with that movie, I don’t blame him for.)
The standout performances of this film are of course from Tom Hanks as real-life lawyer James B. Donovan and Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel. Hanks, as ever, is the best there is at playing the likable every-man, it probably not being a coincidence that his character reminds me very much of Marge from the Coen Brothers film Fargo. Rylance made the whole cinema laugh hard many times as his character dryly took in the situation he found himself in.
What I find interesting about Bridge of Spies, is that it never comments on what each side of the Cold War is fighting for, despite both sides making points of telling the audience how important what it is they’re fighting for is. It is more interested in showing how much the foot-soldiers care for their respective countries, how honour is based on principles that are worth suffering and playing hard-ball for.
In a way, this is Spielberg’s most complicated movie since Munich. Unlike in that movie, though, there is still a main goal to be accomplished and there is no question as to who the good guy is. And just like in every movie he’s ever done, the audience must root for whoever Tom Hanks is playing.
Recommended Scenario: If you want to be thrilled by an excellent telling of a true story that gives you that warm Spielbergian feeling as the credits roll.