Tuesday, October 20, 2015

[Review] Bridge of Spies

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks link up for the fourth time in this well-wrought Cold War thriller.

1957 in Brooklyn--an accused Soviet spy, who we will come to know as Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance) is arrested and taken into custody with overwhelming evidence against him. James Donovan (Hanks), an insurance lawyer and family man is the unlikely guy chosen as the defense attorney, because someone's gotta do it, and everyone has the right to a fair trial. "Everyone in America will hate me, but at least I'll lose," Donovan quips.

But what initially was supposed to be a "C'mon, let's just get this over with" case, turns into something more difficult as Donovan brings his 'A' game and gets more wrapped up than he ever anticipated. And even if he loses the case, he plans to save Abel from the death penalty--specifically for humanitarian reasons, or perhaps for trade collateral if one of the US' guys gets taken in Russia.

My gosh, Spielberg sure knows how to construct scenes in order to generate the greatest interest and appeal, and he also stages some terrific looking frames. Similar to what I said in my recent Crimson Peak review--there are a lot of nominees for One Perfect Shot here too.

The Coen brothers pen this screenplay with a straightforward attitude and it contains some excellent dialogue. And whether it's their doings or Spielberg's, there are many pleasant details of wit along the way despite the seriousness of it all: Such as how people look at Donovan during train rides (depending on what his role in the daily headlines entails), the lingering cold he catches in snowy Berlin (after his coat was stolen), and a repeating exchange as he (acknowledging how calm Abel is) asks "Aren't you worried?" and Abel always answers with "Would it help?"

Much like its main character, the story begins as fairly modest but it gets better and better as it progresses, especially when some big turning points come into play. And Spielberg makes sure to provoke some nice emotion toward the cathartic end. And then of course, this is Tom Hanks here. Did anyone really expect him not to be good in this?

Bridge of Spies is an engaging story of just how damned complicated things can get when a lot of different people at-odds are trying to do the job that they were sent to do.

* 8.5/10 *

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