Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Austin Stowell
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Another excellent movie from 2015. It’s amazing how many great films we managed to churn out this year. Bridge Of Spies feels even more timely considering the current political climate. It’s easy to see Bridge Of Spies and swipe it under the rug as “great, but nothing special”, because we’re used to seeing amazing performances from Tom Hanks, and great films directed by Steven Spielberg. But undermining this film because the batting average of its stars is so high wouldn’t be fair to the true story at the heart of the film. So, ignore the hype, and just accept that this is a terrific film.
Bridge Of Spies follows the true story of James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), a man who is tasked with defending Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), who is accused of being a Russian spy. Donovan believes in the Constitution, and everything that makes America great, and he agrees to give Abel his truly fair shot. Of course, he’s the only one, and Abel loses his case. But when the Russians capture an American spy (Stowell), they enlist Donovan to help them negotiate a trade. Of course, things get complicated, as they always do, and that makes for the great story of Bridge of Spies.
Hanks is pretty much playing a straight character here. It’s his Mr Smith Goes To Washington. It’s not a particularly showy role, in the way that his past roles have been (Philadelphia, Forrest Gump), but it’s a strong role. A lot of his strength comes from the writing in the script (which involves the Coen Brothers), and from Spielberg’s direction. These three key factors are what keep the film going. Spielberg understands pacing more than probably any director around, and this film is expertly paced, even at a 2:20 runtime. I was never bored. I enjoyed ever scene. Everything felt necessary. That’s talent, to be able to turn an over 2 hour film into a work of exceptional pacing and storytelling.
In a supporting role, I thought Mark Rylance was really good. I’m not familiar with most of his work, so I have nothing to compare him to. He seems like a solid character actor doing what a character actor does. Most of the time, their work goes unnoticed and unrecognized, so its nice to see Rylance getting recognition for his role here. I think there have been showier supporting performances this year (Idris Elba and Jacob Tremblay come to mind), but Rylance’s understated work is appreciated as well.
Bridge Of Spies didn’t light up the box office, so its possible you missed it in theatres. That was a mistake. Rectify it by catching it at home when it hits DVD. It’s not a film that demands a big screen, I understand that, but it is a film that demands to be seen. It is a terrific film about our past with themes that still resonate today. That makes it an important film, and one you should most definitely catch.
FINAL GRADE: A