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Better Late Than Never: 'Bridge of Spies' (2015)


The Guys from {FILM} is a discussion on movies and films from all eras and genres

Better Late Than Never: 'Bridge of Spies' (2015)

Shaun Cordingley

Bridge of Spies is one of those movies that came out at the end of 2015 that, while I thought it looked interesting, was not enough to shake me out of my "ZOMG STAR WARS IS COMING" stupor that the end of 2015 really turned into.

I know I haven't written about The Force Awakens on here yet, I imagine I probably get to it good and soon, or wait for the blu-ray release, that way I'm not just randomly gushing about Star Wars (spoilers...I a future article).

However, Bridge of Spies recently came out for rental, and I got around to checking it out, and I have to say that a thoroughly enjoyed it.

For those of you who missed it (which the box office numbers, and the complete ignorance of several people I talked to about it, would be most of you), Bridge of Spies is a cold-war thriller based on the true story of American lawyer James B. Donovan who not only served as defense council for Soviet spy Rudolph Abel, but also negotiated the prisoner exchange to return downed U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers to the United States. The story is just that, we start off with Donovan (played with awesome, "regular guy" abandon by Tom Hanks) being called on to defend Abel to the best of his ability (which was not particularly well liked by the anti-communist crazy United States), and then leads out into his flying to Cold War Berlin to converse with the East Germans and Russians about Powers.

First off, I have to say that Mark Rylance as Abel was absoultely spectacular, and he should be the front runner for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar as far as I am concerned); his reserved, strangely (yet accurately) accented portrayal of Abel really provided a balanced and oddly endearing center to the film. Hanks, as always, was strong, and the rest of the cast was very enjoyable, however it really was Rylance that stood out.

The script (penned by the Coen Brothers and Matt Charman--Bridge is Charman's second film) was quite solid, and contained a bit more humor than I expected, and kept the story moving at a comfortable pace. This is one of those few films with a running time of 141 minutes that I never really felt any drag during--there were quiet moments, yes, but nothing ever really felt like filler. Perhaps the nature of the story, and the fact that they covered a fair amount of material, helped with this as well.

Now that's not to say that I did not have a few problems with Bridge of Spies: you can definitely tell that it is a Steven Spielberg film: it is not as blatant as Lincoln (good lord, that one needed to get ratcheted back a bit), but there were more than a few moments that sucked me out of the story a bit and made me say to myself "Oh Steven...".

Also, if you are at all aware of the history (or in my case, having read a bunch of stuff about JFK), the "thriller" side of Bridge of Spies does not really ring true, as you will already know what happens; at no point did I have a "oh man, I wonder what's going to happen" moment, as it is history.  This could be seen as a bad thing in a lot of films, but I think that Bridge of Spies is entertaining despite this, as you are more just watching a story you know unfold; in this case, seeing the sausage made was the best part.

Overall, I must recommend Bridge of Spies, it deserves it's six Oscar nominations (although I would set the over/under at 1), and to be honest, if I had seen Bridge of Spies before I had written my Top 10 Movies of 2015 List, it would have been on the list (I'm thinking somewhere around 7-8).

In case you, like many, missed this one completely, here is the trailer: