Bridge of Spies (2015): During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers.
You know, this is another great example where a review could be summed up in two words: it's fine. But this is Enter the Movies, where saying a film is fine is never enough! So let's talk a lot about this ultimately fine Steven Speilberg-directed Tom Hanks film, shall we? You know you'd think this film could easily be great when you think about it. After all, it's director is one of the most recognizable names from the last 30 years of Hollywood, and there's little doubt that Tom Hanks is, well, anything short of great. And both show up here and do a wonderful job. This is a very Speilberg-esque film, and Hanks is as charming as ever, once again reminding us why he's, you know, Tom Hanks. I mean it's really amazing how this actor continues to impress after 30 years and continues to take on demanding roles. I'm sure sooner or later he'll fall into the "legacy" category and take on easy/bad films just for the massive paychecks, (Robert De Niro in Dirty Grandpa, really?) but he has undoubtedly turned down these roles to continue to play the "important" roles. The "demanding" roles. The only other actor that I put in the category of Hanks right now is Leonardo DiCaprio, but Hanks has about 15 years on that equally great actor. And yet.....this film fails to reach that level of "greatness" for a couple reasons. So, let's dive into it shall we?
First off, what this film gets right. Well, the film certainly looks the part, with Steven Speilberg doing his job as well as he has ever done. But it's not just the direction. The lighting crew and cinematographer also show up and do an outstanding job with the lighting, with smears of natural/artificial light shining down on characters and bits of scenery in just the right way. Ryan Copeland did the lighting for this film, and he certainly deserves a lot of credit for it. And of course the acting/dialogue are excellent. Tom Hanks is Tom Hanks and the supporting cast around him is also excellent. Mark Rylance is really solid as the Russian spy, and Amy Ryan is excellent as "the wife." Ya she's massively underused, and her role is incredibly simple and could've been played by a freaking sex doll, but she nails it, as usual. It's just a shame that this role falls right into the plight of being an actress in Hollywood. Additionally, this film does a great job in the first act in drawing comparisons to modern America and how we treat Muslims/perceived terrorists. The initial trial of this Russian spy is easily the best part of the film, with Hanks' character pleading with the criminal justice system to treat this man like they would an ordinary criminal, but being denied this because he's a Russian and perceived to be a spy. Sure does sound familiar, Mr. Trump. But really, in this first act Speilberg and company do a phenomenal job of showing how history has repeated itself as time has gone on. Sadly, though, the film kept going after this trial.
You know, I'm making this sound like a bad thing. The third act of this 141 minute film is not bad. It's just....predictable. Boringly predictable. There are super obvious "twists" that occur, but in addition the U2 pilot is massively underdeveloped, and the Russian cast that Hanks is put up against during his time in East Berlin is also massively underdeveloped. So much so that there were points where I was honestly kind of confused. Like, "Why is East Berlin trying to make a separate deal with Hanks and then reneging on it when they find out the USSR is also involved? Isn't East Berlin like owned by the USSR or something?" there's this East Berlin figure in Vogel that makes literally no sense but whatever. There's just....a lot of that. Like Hanks assistant at the beginning of the film who shows up for essentially one joke and seems to be gearing up for a major role in this film but then we never see him again. Ok cool, guys. Also the score here is pretty lackluster, but that may be in part because Speilberg's usual partner-in-crime, John Williams, was caught up with Star Wars, and his replacement, Thomas Newman, can be very underwhelming. Like he is here.
But that's really it. The story is predictable, and its characters are underdeveloped. But still, even during the final act of this film the acting and dialogue still more than made up for the shortcomings of the story. And the lighting was still excellent. All of this leads to what I said at the beginning of this review: it's fine. It has its moments, but there's just too much muck here preventing this film from achieving the greatness it set out to reach. This is why I suspect this film will be largely forgotten by the Academy when the nominations are released in a few weeks. But that's it. That's all I got. You wanted me to explain why this film is fine and I did. You're welcome, Internet.
The Critique: While Tom Hanks and Steven Speilberg are their usual selves, Bridge of Spies suffers from a boringly predictable second and third act that bar it from being anything more than good. It's fine.
The Recommendation: This film is definitely targeted for those who lived through the Cold War. Tom Hanks fans will find goodness here, but everyone else? You're time is better spent elsewhere.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 7/10 It's fine.
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