I had an opportunity to see the recently released Steven Spielberg directed Bridge of Spies this past weekend.
This was an extremely solid and entertaining movie. I wouldn’t quite put it above the all-time greats but it is definitely a great film and a welcome addition to both Spielberg’s and Hanks’ film portfolios. If you haven’t watched the film, skip the next paragraph.
Bridge of Spies opens with a man named Rudolph Abel (played by Mark Rylance). He is a painter who spends his time painting different scenic views around New York City. He is arrested by police for allegedly being a Soviet spy and is put on trial. His lawyer, James Donovan, (played by Hanks) is a man of high integrity and feels that he must do his best to get his client cleared of all charges as a result of sloppy police work, namely not having a search warrant. Abel is convicted anyway and receives a sentence of basically life in prison so that he may be an asset to trade in case an American spy is caught by the Soviets. This ends up coming to fruition and Donovan is tasked with negotiating the trade of the spy caught by the Soviets and has a meeting set up in a war-torn Berlin. While in Berlin, Donovan learns of another captive, this one by the Germans, who is completely innocent and is just an economics student who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Donovan then makes it his mission to somehow trade Abel for both Powers (the pilot captured by the Soviets), and this student. He eventually convinces Germany to help him and everyone is swapped and the US gets 2 for 1.
One thing I loved about this movie is the contrast in style from Americans to Soviets. Briefly, Powers’ interrogation is shown by darkness then turning into this harsh, bright yellow light, whereas Abel is shown sitting calmly with Donovan and the lighting is bluish and almost subdued. The lighting does a great job of showing how terrifying the Soviets tactics might have been to try and get information from the spy and how calm the storm was in the US, especially after it is made clear Abel is not going to talk. This is just one example of how Spielberg does a great job with tone and lighting.
The acting was incredible, especially from Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance. They both had great chemistry for each other and you even start to admire Abel’s resilience and his resolve to not give up any Soviet secrets. I think Rylance should be a shoo-in for BSA.
The movie also included some great symbolism. The coin motif really is important in my view because this movie shows that there are always two sides to every coin. Just because a person may be a spy for an enemy country doesn’t mean that person is a bad human being or any less than a person who deserves representation and a fair trial.
I feel very strongly that this film will receive considerable Oscar buzz. The possible nominations could be Hanks for lead actor, Rylance as supporting actor, Spielberg for directing, and 2 time Oscar winner and 6 time nominee Janusz Kaminski for achievement in cinematography.
I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.