Review: Bridge of Spies

Synopsis: An American lawyer is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help rescue a pilot detained in the Soviet Union.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan
Release Date: 22nd October 2015

I have been of the, likely unpopular, opinion that Steven Spielberg’s best films are behind him. His classic films such as Jaws, ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park and even Hook, just don’t stand on the same level as his most recent ones (namely War Horse, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull).
Seeing the trailer for Bridge of Spies, I was excited. What a great story. The trailer looks like an engaging, suspenseful, exciting and tense Cold War spy-thriller based on real events.
I sat down in the theatre, ready and excited to see what one of the greatest director’s in history had created. Unfortunately, I was met with a film that prodded along at a pace so slow that it became dull, partnered with a story that didn’t feel fleshed out enough and rather skimmed over the surface.

Tom Hanks plays the lead role as James Donovan. An insurance lawyer tasked with the monumental challenge of representing an accused Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel. Hanks gives a good performance but it is in no way extraordinary or worthy of the Oscar nomination he might still receive. The script, written by the Coen Brothers, doesn’t give Hanks enough to play with, in regards to showing the struggle and turmoil of defending an accused spy.
The pressure on him, his family, his own beliefs and opinions, the reaction from the public.
Instead, he takes on the task relatively easily, without really copping any flack except for a few stares on the subway and a quick glossed over drive-by shooting.
Almost as soon as Abel is imprisoned, Donovan is sent to Berlin to negotiate the prisoner exchange; Abel for an American pilot who crashed and was captured by the Soviets, Francis Gary Powers, and American student Frederic Pryor. In reality, this exchange happened almost 5 years after Abel was sentenced to prison, yet the film makes it feel like it happened mere weeks later.
Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski reunite again on this film, showcasing their extraordinary eye with some great shots and cinematography. VFX-wise, the movie has some extraordinarily bad and hokey shots, particularly those of Powers’ plane crash and of German’s trying to escape over the wall.
The score, done by Thomas Newman instead of Spielberg’s regular collaborator John Williams, feels slightly out-of-place with the rest of the film.

All-in-all, Bridge of Spies is an adequate film that feels like it has lightly glossed over an interesting and deep story. It’s not Spielberg’s best, but it’s also not his worst. It feels like he’s restraining himself, holding back for some reason.
Let’s just hope he does better with his upcoming projects; Roald Dahl’s The BFG, and another adaptation of one of my favourite books Ready Player One.






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