Tuesday 24 November 2015

Bridge of Spies - Review by Carleton Rutter

Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda and Amy Ryan
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Strapline: "In the shadow of war, one man showed the world what we stand for"

So, in a nutshell?
James Donovan (Hanks) an American lawyer is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help rescue a pilot detained in the Soviet Union.

So, what are my thoughts?
Steven Spielberg is my favourite director of all time. There are other great directors in Hollywood today such as J.J Abrams, Christopher Nolan, and Ron Howard to name just three. However nobody can quite capture the magic of Spielberg himself. So whenever he releases a movie it is always an event. Tom Hanks is also perhaps my favourite actor in Hollywood as well. The two men have collaborated over the years on many projects most notably Saving Private Ryan (1998). ​Their partnership however can be traced all the way back to 1986, when Spielberg produced Money Pit which starred Hanks.

​Bridge of Spies marks the fourth time Spielberg has directed a movie starring Tom Hanks. The others being, Saving Private Ryan (1998), Catch Me if You Can (2002) and finally The Terminal (2004). ​

So, what do I make to their fourth collaboration? Well I enjoyed it, based on a true story, Bridge of Spies is an excellent film which perfectly captures the tense existence during this unprecedented time in history. One of the beauties of this movie is I knew very little about it going in, so this really aided to the general level of suspense. Although the movie clocks in at a lengthy 2 hours 20 mins, for a drama based on the Cold War, it flew by.

This was largely due to Spielberg's brilliant and confident direction. Tom Hanks in the central role excels. He is as this stage of his career like Morgan Freeman someone who now just plays himself, or at least our personification of him. This is fine though as he fits like a glove. Special mention should also be mentioned to the writers Matt Charman and the Coen Brothers, yes the Coen Brothers (No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Fargo and The Big Lebowski) wrote this movie.

Bridge of Spies ​also features a great cast, with the likes of Alan Alda and Amy Ryan but without doubt the star player is Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel the Russian spy. I wouldn't be surprised if he was shortlisted as Best Supporting Actor come the awards season. Such an understated but subtle performance.

The movie looks stunning and is very well shot, this is no surprise when you learn it was shot by Janusz Kaminski who has provided some of the most startling and memorable images from Spielberg's movies such as Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List. Kaminski has done for the Cold War in this movie what he did for the beach landings in Ryan and the concentration camp in Schindler's List. The movie is extremely evocative of the Cold War era.

As for the movie itself, it essentially has two main acts, Hanks defending Rylance and then the story of the shot down U2 Spy plane Air Force Pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) and how the two are exchanged by the authorities. Bridge of Spies is very much a Spielberg movie for adults, not for the masses. There is hardly any "action" as you might call it but there are welcome sprinklings of humour.

It's not for everyone, but for me this is an old school spy movie. This is what it would have been really like, forget the gadgets, girls, and humour of other spy entries this year, this is what a spy movie should be like, suspenseful and intriguing. It's very much the thinking man's spy movie.

My Rating 

Bridge of Spies is as good as I had hoped it would be. Featuring assured confident direction from Spielberg with an equally assured central performance from Tom Hanks, this movie did not disappoint. Add to that a strong quality cast with a great performance by Mark Rylance in support, and a movie that is so evocative of the era, this is one movie which I hope you will enjoy. It will prove too slow for some people and given the nature of the movie, is equally effective on the small screen as the big, but if you are looking for a classy quality drama this month, you will do well to check this out. You won't catch a cold.

Bridge of Spies is released in the UK on Friday 27th November

Review by Carleton Rutter