Bridge Of Spies(2015)
- RatedPG13 /GenreDrama, Thriller
Steven Spielberg is no stranger to making movies about war.
From the action-packed military endeavours in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ to the painful depiction of the Holocaust in ‘Schindler’s List’, the legendary director has proven time and again his ability to re-explore the horrors of conflict in various contexts.
In ‘Bridge of Spies’, Spielberg ventures into the somewhat familiar territory of Cold War espionage. But this time, the weapons to be fought with are different.
“We need to have the conservation our governments can’t,” Tom Hanks’ character says to his Socialist counterpart. True enough, his only bargaining chips are words and technicalities. And with official diplomacy and government labels out of the picture, Spielberg reveals American, Soviet and East German participants who turn out to have more in common than they realise.
But aside from its intriguing and thought-provoking look into the 1960 U-2 incident and the prisoner exchange that followed, ‘Bridge of Spies’ reinforces the cinematic genius of Spielberg and the proven performer in Hanks. Together, they elevate a decent-at-best narrative into a film that is affective, intriguing and brilliantly executed.
SLOW BUT RIVETING
Tom Hanks (right) in 'Bridge of Spies'
Hanks plays James B. Donovan, a successful American insurance lawyer who gets roped into defending a Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). As the Cold War progresses, Donovan soon finds himself in East Germany as the centrepiece of unofficial negotiations with the Russians, seeking to trade Abel for a captured American military pilot (Austin Stowell).
Unlike what one would expect from a typical thriller, ‘Bridge of Spies’ is slowly-paced, clearly taking its time to capture the events that unfold. Any significant dose of suspense is largely confined to a handful of brief moments, and otherwise runs low – but nonetheless still runs – for the rest of the movie. ‘Bridge of Spies’s’ patience with its content is certainly not a drag, but it rarely keeps audiences on the edge of their seats.
In spite of the film’s slow progression, Spielberg maintains sufficient substance and mystery to keep his viewers on board throughout. The script easily captures the complicated second-guessing that underlies such tense situations. Hank and Rylance – both with impressive performances – also inject plenty of charm into their characters, winning audiences with their peculiar and respectful relationship.
Tom Hanks (right) in 'Bridge of Spies'
But where ‘Bridge of Spies’ really impresses is how it manages to communicate so much with what it puts together on screen. The genius of Spielberg is at work here, and the maestro pieces together meticulously designed shots that are visually striking and affective. Everything from emotion, humour and atmosphere are communicated subtly and clearly through the precision of the scenes and the actions that unfold in them.
Riding on such impressive execution, ‘Bridge of Spies’ really soars towards the final portion of the film. Here, Spielberg wraps Donovan’s efforts and relationships with plenty of emotion and captures them beautifully, certainly aided by a strong performance from Hanks. By then, the prisoner exchange has taken on a meaning that is as personal as it is political, and Donovan’s role throughout the film is elevated with greater significance and appreciation.
If the first half of the movie keeps audiences on board with its intrigue and delivery, the final portion is when Spielberg drives home his messages to a fully invested audience.
‘Bridge of Spies’ is not the most memorable and solid of all of Spielberg’s war movies, and it is hardly the film that viewers will cling on to after some time has passed. But for how well it is put together and how poignant its strongest moments are, the film is certainly one that audiences will appreciate as much as they appreciate Donovan himself.