Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ latest collaboration is a solid wartime drama, not extremely emotional, not extremely heavy, but simply a good watch.
Following true events during the Cold War, Tom Hanks plays James B. Donovan, an insurance attorney who is called in for the spiky task of defending a Soviet Russian spy in American court. However this escalates after an American U2 spy plane is shot down and a trade could be negotiated, only to be further complicated as the Berlin Wall is raised and other innocents are caught in the turmoil.
Bridge of Spies is not as emotionally fueled as Spielberg’s Warhorse (or even as action packed as Warhorse), nor is it as dry and heavy as his Lincoln in 2012/2013, it sits in a comfortable rut of entertaining layman’s terms but neat, tight moments of tension. For a spy film this is very consumable (unlike say, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) and Tom Hanks is excellent at bringing a lot of levity to the proceedings as just an average lawyer who gets completely caught up in globally critical espionage! Rising to the challenge of facing shadowy operatives way above his pay grade. Truly, Tom Hanks is just a really nice guy, and if you don’t like him for… some reason… you won’t find anything here.
It should also be noted that the film is co-written by brothers Ethan and Joel Coen, which probably aided Hanks’ dialogue being surprisingly witty and likable.
As usual Spielberg delivers great visual film-making and set design and really makes you feel like you are there in the time period. It is a moody, stark but gorgeously lit film.
There’s a lot of ground to cover too, yet even at two hours and twenty minutes some elements seem to fly past without much weight; feeling a little fleeting for the gravity of the situation. This is especially obvious when the U2 spy plane is involved; there’s so much on your plate and you want to savour it all, but the story has places to go.
There’s a good sense of society and the period involved, giving an idea of the sort of hypocrisy that was present (and still is, very much today!) especially with how violent and bloodthirsty the American public are towards the Russian spy after he is caught. Despite the fact that he is a prisoner of war, and a human being, doing his job. Donovan’s defense is very humanitarian and genuine in the face of demonising himself in the process.
With today’s News and global troubles, I found the film’s initial messages of ‘treat others the way you’d want to be treated’ and think of the consequences before you act, quite compelling.
Unlike fifty percent of Spielberg’s films, this didn’t make me cry, it didn’t overwhelm me with jargon and dialogue, it wasn’t sappy or pretentious, it wasn’t even heavily action or war driven. Bridge of Spies is a solid, well rounded wartime drama.