Bridge of Spies – 3.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Bridge of SpiesBridge of Spies – 3.5/5 – Espionage is a very broad but wonderfully enticing genre.  When it comes to the spy world, they usually involve some form of action, over-the-top sequences or iconic but otherwise cliché villains.  The truly great espionage stories are the ones that can grab the essences of these items, and make something unique in its own right.  Bridge of Spies is another film from the great Steven Spielberg; one that takes you into true world events that involves spies during the Cold War Era.  A film with a prominent director, it has a unique take because of the ‘true story’ element.  Even with the greatness of an adapted tale; the film does hit a monotone spread that keeps it from being great.  Even with its ‘lack thereof’ feeling; Bridge of Spies is a tantalizing experience, even if it takes a while to get there.

Premise: During the Cold War, one American Layer is recruited to defend a Soviet Spy.  In the aftermath of consequences from the CIA; James Donovan is thrust into dire negotiations.  Through it all, one man holds true to his convictions, and shows what it truly means to be honorable.

In the lead role of James B Donovan is Tom Hanks.  No questions, no reason needed; Hanks is a formidable actor and relishes in taking on these kinds of dramatically enticed challenges.  As the American Lawyer tasked with dire negotiations; Hank gives you great commandment over Mr. Donovan.  He is strong, precise, diligent and most of all; charming on a grounded level.  He gives you a man caught in the crosshairs of two Spy Agencies (CIA and KGB).  In parlaying the raw situation against liberty, he is a man strong with his convictions.  He shows no weakness when it comes to freeing the American’s from the enemy hands.  Hanks takes command of all his scenes, posturing strength through words and dignity in his actions.  There is purity that comes across from him, one that reflects the ideals ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’ during this era of The Cold War.  Outside of him; the rest of the cast can fall into the basic category you find in any kind of dramatized true story tale.  There isn’t anything out of the ordinary that comes across from the side characters.  Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel (Soviet Spy) is the only one that gives some kind of equal performance to Tom Hanks.  Even with his subtle strength in his characterization, it doesn’t break away from the commonality of the situation.  Even with the presented great ‘contrast’ in the conversations that happen with Hanks’ James Donovan; there isn’t enough strength in the motivational side to create some sort of empathy for the character.  In doing this, it falls into that generic form of being just an antagonist.  This creates that feeling of ‘wanting more’ when there is nothing left to find.  The side characters are your generic/cookie cutter dramatized people used only for plot driven moments.

The direction is one that shows what a master of his/her craft can do.  With Steven Spielberg at the helm, we are witness to how method and focus can help raise a script that is general and bland.  From the first scene to the last; there is nothing that screams amazing from the script.  It is a film built upon the ideas of the ‘period piece’ mantra.  It is then infused with the directive of pulling out the heavy exposition built upon dialogue driven characters.  There is no explanation of any depth.  All the method and focus comes from the ‘cliché’ true story elements of where, what and how everything comes from the basics of the script.  As mentioned, this is a film set during the Cold War, when the U.S. and The Soviet Union were at odds to ideology.  In this, both countries use many ‘secretive’ methods to spy on each other.  From this, you get introduced to all the main players in the film, which includes The Soviet Spy Rudolf Abel, American Lawyer James B. Donovan and the rest of the common individuals you find that drives the plot’s authenticity of the era.  What happens from this point is a film that becomes a series of ‘events’ which are linked by individual expositional situations invoked by a speech or conversation.  This is repeated in each of the three acts in some form.  As this basic setup of ‘events’ takes place, the film unfolds as followed:

First Act – Intro to the Cold War Era, situations and characters.   Courtroom drama (event) sets the progression and tone.   James Donovan proclaims civil liberties for his client (Expositional Situation)

Second Act – Aftermath of courtroom Drama (event) and CIA Faux Pas (event) leads to consequences on both sides.  A chain reaction of these storylines leads to James Donovan and Rudolf Abel conversational moments (Expositional Situation).  Donavan heads to East Germany for prisoner swap negotiations (Event).

Third Act – James Donovan has a series of conversation with German Lawyers, CIA and KGB agents (Expositional Situations). Final confrontation on a bridge for prison Swap (Event); links to the aftermath epilogue of a ‘full circle’ method

There is no parlaying of anything intense going on; all of it is built off story driven elements by the direction and few characters.  Because of the strong main lead and remarkable director, the story becomes imbued by something of a thematic tale.  There is an overlay of subtle impressions dealing with the ideas of being tolerant, true and honorable.  In the wake of hostility, James Donovan sees the ‘bigger picture’ and knows the haze confrontations when it comes to the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ of both countries.  Seeking ‘true’ justices in all actions; we get a film that has visceral methods in its subtlety.  It is with the keen eye of Spielberg that his vision bleeds triumph in its predictable and sometimes monotone like linearity.  The film’s strength is carried by marginal focus, keeping any a steadfast approach while not trailing into being overly dramatic or blandly educational.  It is entertaining with slight pizzazz and endearing because of the fortitude of one man’s quest.  There is still some sort of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ by the time the film carries past its climax; giving you enough (by the end) to find purpose in its generalities.

The visuals are based on the aesthetic nature of the era.  Being placed during the Cold War, a lot of the imagery is used to raise the mood.  There is a subtle danger found within all the elements of the visage appeal, seeing it through darken atmosphere or ‘cool-like’ colors.  With this aspect used; it allows us to see a feeling of tension and paranoia, as well as the standout aura found around the main character.  All the impressions are stationary, as focus is left to be positioned on characters within the ‘surrounding’ city elements of Berlin and New York City.  This gives that raw exposure to the nature of these places during the Cold War.  The score is typical of the period piece setting.   It is a combination of a loud/resounding orchestra, heavy bass and subtle melodic string instruments.  This helps add to the visuals, creating more atmosphere around the general script.

Bridge of Spies is a great effort from an amazing director.  Even with the weight behind the story, it is still obvious it is a basic drama set around a period piece.  The true story elements helps provide some worth in the theme, and helps give an amazing actor in Tom Hanks to shine.  If you’re a fan of anyone involved or like period pieces, this is one for you.  Definitely worth watching and adding to your collection.  It is more than just a rental on a Friday night.

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