Thanks to 20th Century Fox we had the chance to see ‘Bridge of Spies‘ before its national release. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go and see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!
When lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is asked to defend Russian spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) in court, he is initially reluctant. Not just because he doesn’t want to, also because the case seems done before it has even goes to trial, as the judge is eager to sentence Abel to death. When Donovan gets to know his client they develop a mutual respect for each other’s steadfastness, which makes the lawyer determined to provide Abel with the best possible defense.
Meanwhile the American army is developing new spy planes with revolutionary camera techniques. One of these is taken down in Russian air space and the pilot gets captured. When the idea arises to exchange Abel for the pilot, Donovan is sent to Berlin to negotiate an exchange between the two spy prisoners. When he gets there, he learns how the East-Germans have captured a young American student. To the frustration of the CIA the inexperienced negotiator decides to try and get the Russians and the East-Germans to release both pilot and student in exchange for Abel.
After the dour history lesson of ‘Lincoln’ and the disappointment of ‘War Horse ‘, Steven Spielberg is back in top form with ‘Bridge Of Spies ‘. This blockbuster is easily his best in a decade and arguably his best this millennium so far, as it features the perfect mix of suspense, drama, history & heart. The first half is a captivating courtroom drama where we see a lawyer who learns doing the right thing may not always be what most people consider right. The second half is a suspenseful spy story set in cold war East Berlin, where Donovan faces so many dangers he’s not even sure whether he’ll make it out alive. Spielberg captures the mood of both genres spot on, which basically gives the viewer just the type of two-for-one deal Donovan is chasing, as ‘Bridge Of Spies’ delivers both as a courtroom drama as well as a spy thriller.
Hanks is also in great form, and his performance as James Donovan is up there with his all-time great roles like Captain Phillips, Saving Private Ryan’s Captain Miller and Forrest Gump. His character is also very relatable as an everyday man who becomes a hero by defying the odds and standing up for what he believes in. Breakout star of the film is British tv-actor Mark Rylance, who steals the show as the imperturbable Russian Spy Rudolf Abel, who keeps his reserved demeanor even when facing the prospect of a possible death penalty. It is easy to see why Rylance is already generating as much Oscar Buzz as Spielberg and Hanks themselves.
Two unexpected contributors who could also do well come Oscar time are Joel and Ethan Coen. The quirky filmmaking duo re-wrote Matt Charman’s screenplay but strangely enough their unique tone of voice is not recognizable in the film, which does not matter as the screenplay is terrific – but very conventional for Coen Brothers-standards.
You may, like us, have not enjoyed Spielberg’s most recent efforts but ‘Bridge of Spies’ is a movie that proudly deserves the tagline “from the guy who brought you ‘Jaws’, ‘Jurassic Park ‘, ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’”. It may also be Spielberg’s first movie where he manages to do both the things he does best at once, by teaching his audience a valuable history lesson while entertaining them at the same time. The result is moving, thrilling, thought-provoking and exciting. ‘Bridge of Spies’ is exactly the kind of stuff we go to cinemas for.