BRIDGE OF SPIES – REVIEW

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks once again reunite, this time telling a story about US and Soviet spies during the early days of the Cold War. So, is it any good?

YES

Bridge of Spies is an excellent, well-crafted picture set during the early days of the Cold War. James B Donovan (Tom Hanks), is recruited by the CIA to negotiate a prisoner swap between Francis Gary Powers, a US spy pilot shot down over the Soviet Union, with Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance), a convicted Soviet spy operating on US soil, whom Donovan had represented in court. This is a small story, set against the backdrop of much larger war of spies and information, but it’s an incredibly fascinating watch.

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Tom Hanks is on the mark in this flick, his fourth collaboration with Spielberg. He plays the part of this honest lawyer with humility and charm. Equally as impressive is Mark Rylance as the Soviet spy. Any scene between the two is a joy to watch, even if Rudolph Abel is a man of few words. I’d never seen any of Rylance’s work before this film, but he was excellent, and I look forward to his next collaboration with Spielberg as the title character in “The BFG”.  The movie drives forward at a solid pace, and what it lacks in action set pieces that you may expect from a Spielberg cold war movie, it makes up for in wonderful characters and an interesting view of a heavy and historically significant subject. This being said, it should be no surprise that the Coen brothers scripted this one.

The movie definitely gets a bit heavier in the second half the film, when Hank’s character travels to Germany to negotiate the prisoner exchange. Any viewer with any kind of historical understanding of Germany will have no problem following along as Hanks jumps the border from East and West Berlin, but those without any knowledge of the world at the time (this viewer included), may have a little trouble understanding where things are taking place. Berlin at the time was a complicated place and the film doesn’t stop to explain the split. Even though this may seem like minor quibble, I applaud the director’s ability to not dumb things down and create tense situations as you are left wondering if Hank’s will be allowed passage at the border crossings.

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A surprise for me personally, was Thomas Newman’s score. Bridge of Spies is Spielberg’s first film since 1985’s “The Color Purple” not to be scored by the beard’s main man, John Williams. As a huge fan, I was disappointed to not hear a new John Williams score (guess he’s busy in a galaxy far, far away), but Newman’s score suited the film well, offering moments of lightheartedness and not just the droll tones you may expected from a film centred around the Soviet Union.

Lightness was another real surprise – there were genuine moments of laughter from our audience numerous times throughout the movie. This movie was never a comedy, but the script has fun with its characters when appropriate and it really helps to balance what could have been a heavy courtroom movie between the Soviets and the US.

‘Bridge of Spies’ by DreamWorks Studios.

Bridge of Spies is one of the year’s best pictures. Whilst the movie may sit in the middle of Spielberg’s filmography, it definitely earns its place by being entertaining, interesting, well cast and well shot. As a movie lover, can we ask for anything else?

Bridge of Spies is in Australian cinemas from October 22nd

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