Bridge of Spies Review

Preface

  • Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks take on a political drama in the Cold War? Yeah, let’s watch this!

Premise

  • Yeah, my intros are usually better, but uh… I couldn’t really come up with one for this movie…
  • As the preface said, Bridge of Spies is the newest film from Steven Spielberg and it’s a political drama set in the Cold War era that stars Tom Hanks as Jim Donovan.
  • Donovan is an insurance lawyer who is tasked with the assignment of defending a spy for the Soviet Union that’s caught in America, and then he has to do some more negotiations with the actual Soviet government.
  • But I won’t spoil much other than that.

Review

  • Do you what’s great in this movie? And every movie? Tom Hanks.
  • Seriously, it’s a basic conclusion that Tom Hanks will be great in every movie he’s in.
  • But even more so than Captain Phillips (the last thing I saw him in), Hanks just disappears into this character. Jim Donovan is this morally upstanding United States citizen who believes in fairness, equality, and the good Lord above.
  • He’s also a family man, he’s kinda funny, he’s good at his job. These are very basic traits, but Hanks ultimately makes them into this three-dimensional character that commands the screen for most of the film, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he got nominated for Best Lead Actor.
  • Ya know what else is great in this movie? Mark Rylance as Abel, the Russian spy.
  • He didn’t have a of screen time, but the scenes he was in really just established the humanity of his character, and that was an insanely important part in setting up the human theme (but we’ll get to that).
  • Donovan’s wife was pretty good in the movie too for the small role she had.
  • But the issue with the characters and a lot of the non-Hanks/Rylance actors is that most of them were extremely interchangeable.
  • The kid that they had playing Powers, an American POW in the USSR, this was probably supposed to be a “big break” role for him, but I honestly don’t know that this is it. He has potential, it just didn’t feel like he shined or added anything unique to the role.
  • Same with Alan Alda’s character and most of the supporting cast.

Writing

  • What was phenomenal in this movie, though, was the writing.
  • I’m not a live and die hard fan of the Coen Brothers, but they did do a really great job on this movie.
  • Everything was conveyed with the right amount of historical relevance, but it never felt like they were just referencing some historical event just to reference it.
  • The main plot of this movie was probably a premise that most people probably didn’t know going in, and the Coens told the story in this politically interesting way.
  • Some parts did feel a bit more interesting that others though…
  • The first half of the movie, I was all in.
  • It was compelling, it was politically fascinating (even to a person like myself who isn’t super political), it was this judicially cool story.
  • That first half almost felt like The Imitation Game with slightly less compelling characters and a LOT less science.
  • Then there was the third-quarter of the movie, where the plot changed a bit and it felt like a boring version of Argo.
  • It stayed with a lot of politics, but the focus of the movie went from Donovan onto a lot more characters, and those characters weren’t as interesting so we didn’t care as much.
  • If you can end a movie well though, that forgives some of the other sins it may have had. And Bridge of Spies had a pretty fricken’ sweet ending.
  • The dialogue was funny too, it wasn’t a comedy by any means, but it did have some really good comic relief.
  • And it’s always cool to see comic relief in a different time period, especially one that was 60 years ago. It’s fun to see that people always laugh at the same stuff despite the time differences.
  • And the writing, particularly the end, did a really good job of showing the movie’s theme.
    • A lot of movies this time of year are really well done, but they don’t have a ton of morals or themes to them.
  • Bridge of Spies had this really interesting and thought-provoking theme about humanity, and what humans mean and do to each other.
    • It’s also cool to think back on the movie and see that, even though the ideological clash in this time period was huge, both the Soviets and the Americans weren’t thinking that differently. They both cared about their people, and they were both moral, decision-making humans too.
  • Good job Coens!

Direction

  • The thing that drew me into this movie though that actually let me down was Steven Spielberg’s direction.
  • He didn’t do a BAD job directing, it just wasn’t as crisp or as enriched as you may imagine a Cold War political movie directed by Steven Spielberg to be.
  • I think that the lack of care for the supporting cast came as a result of that.
  • I knew who directed this movie going into. The two friends I was with did not.
  • When “Directed by, Steven Spielberg” came up on screen as the first credit, one of my friends was completely flabbergasted.
  • It kind of felt like this was the SECOND movie from a new, up-and-coming director. And it would have been a pretty decently directed second movie from an up-and-coming director.
  • Spielberg has that flair, that substance, and so many different tricks up his sleeve that the direction was just kinda sub-par in this one.
  • Maybe it was just an expectations thing!?
  • I will say that the movie has some odd pacing too. It’s only an hour and 45 minutes, but it feels about a half hour longer than that, most because of that slow third-quarter.

In Conclusion

  • In Conclusion guys, Bridge of Spies is a very decent movie with some good performances, REALLY good writing, and sub-par directing.
  • As I said, it reminded me of the “okay” version of The Imitation Game meets the “okay” version of Argo.
  • There wasn’t a ton that made me sit back and think about when I could see it again, or who I should recommend it to.
  • It was a very solid movie though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it got nominated for Best Picture because it is that type of movie and it does have a lot of qualities that say, “I was nominated for Best Picture, but didn’t win…”
  • And I will say that Bridge of Spies is a Good Time and Definitely Worth Checking Out.

***

So guys, those are my thoughts on Bridge of Spies! What are your thoughts on this movie if you’ve seen it, and what’s your favorite Spielberg movie? Let me know in the comments down below, and as always, thanks for reading guys.

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