Bridge of Spies: A Review
Steven Spielberg directs Tom Hanks in this Coen brothers-penned script, resulting in exactly what you would expect, with some moments of true excellence and some elements that viewers may love but others will find too sentimental.
Bridge of Spies follows the true story of a Cold War prisoner exchange that occurred in 1962, between West and East Berlin. Hanks heads up the cast as James Donovan, a lawyer who is tasked first with providing a capable defence for Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance, Wolf Hall), accused in the US as being a soviet spy and then asked to negotiate the exchange.
Hanks – as ever – delivers a highly captivating performance, and while the character is no huge leap for him, the casting is perfect and the material allows him to play to strengths that are always a pleasure to witness.
Originally written by British screenwriter and playwright, Matt Charman (Suite Française), the finished script has been revised by the Coen brothers which is illuminated through moments of offbeat humour that prevent Bridge of Spies from being the same run-of-the-mill historical drama. However, depending on jarring to some tastes, this at times can arguable detract from the weight of the subject matter.
The film is in fact at its best in the scenes with minimal dialogue. Most notably, the opening ten minutes where the audience is able to follow the movements of Rudolph Abel in a wonderfully understated pursuit by federal agents. This is where the film truly captures the unique feeling of Cold War operations: hunt and evasion shrouded by domesticity.
Throughout Bridge of Spies, Rylance excels in his role of Abel with each of his movements deserving the audiences’ undivided attention – and rightly so.
The other cast members are also of a high calibre. Special mention should go out to Amy Ryan who, as James Donovan’s wife, Mary, has little screen time but still manages to make a considerable mark on the film itself. Initially in opposition to James’ attempts to defend Abel and later unaware of the work he is actually doing in Europe, Mary’s point of view is extremely interesting with the viewer likely to leave the cinema wishing they were able to see more of her perspective.
This is, however, not Mary’s story, and this remarkable incident certainly warrants the film it has produced. What is perhaps not warranted though is the two hours and twenty-one minute running time; strangely when Donovan reaches Berlin, the film loses a sense of pace. This paired with the unnecessary elongated scenes could easily have been cut down to roughly the two hours mark, making Bridge of Spies run more smoothly.
The scene of the actual prisoner exchange is definitely worth the wait, with it being magnificently shot and it highlighting some of the best acting from Hanks and Rylance.
Bridge of Spies concerns itself with injustice on both sides of an ideological conflict. This, in light of recent events is of course not just a matter of the past. Overall, Bridge of Spies is a truly fantastic picture and well worth spending money to see on the big screen.