Wow, just wow. That is the only reaction I can have after watching this movie. I wasn’t even outside the theater before I was on the phone telling my mother to go see this masterpiece.
I believe this is the best movie Spielberg has ever done, and this is coming from a diehard Saving Private Ryan and Jurassic Park fan.
The combination of the performances, technical aspects and plot combined to make Bridge of Spies a potential candidate for movie of the year. Nearly everything about this movie is so close to perfect, I’d compare it to The Godfather.
The ability of Spielberg to pull off this kind of quality is all the more amazing since this is not an allstar cast. With the exception of Tom Hanks as the lead, there are no big name actors. Instead the cast is made up of relatively unknown character actors including Mark Rylance as Rudolph Abel, Amy Ryan as Mary Donovan, Scott Sheppard as Agent Hoffman, and Austin Stowell as Francis Gary Powers.
The story itself is relatively simple. A Russian spy is caught and Hanks’ character, James Donovan, is asked to represent him in court. Afterwards Donovan negotiates a prisoner exchange for the spy and two Americans, a pilot and a student.
I was afraid that the bulk of the movie would focus on the trial of Rudolf Abel, the spy, in a To Kill a Mockingbird way (with the moral implications zeroed in on every man deserving equal treatment before the law). I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t the case.
Instead the focus is on Donovan, his convictions of right and wrong, and how he deals with the world around him that’s ready to explode.
Each performance is enthralling. None of the actors dared turn in merely “good” performance, especially Hanks. Not many actors have managed to remain a cultural icon for over 25 years, and it’s performances like this that keep Hanks in the public eye. Throughout Bridge of Spies it was sometimes hard to remember that Hanks is not the real James Donovan. Rylance and Shepherd also gave stand-out performances among the cast.
Visually, the film captures the symbolic bleakness of the world at the time. Oodles of grey, deep blues and browns blanket the set; all other colors are extremely muted. A dramatic shift takes place in the color scheme during the final scene, when the world is allowed to hope again.
If the movie has any downside, it’s the music. This is one of the few Spielberg movies not to be scored by John Williams, and it’s painfully obvious. Thomas Newman stepped in, and while the score is not horrible, it lacks a certain intensity we’ve come to expect with Spielberg’s movies. Most of the time you won’t even notice it’s there, it’s that generic. Not horrible, just disappointing.
All in all, this is an incredible telling of an incredible true story. With so many films billing themselves as “based on a true story” in recent years, like Pearl Harbor, Argo, U-571, and Pocahontas, it’s refreshing get the sense that there are no embellishments or creative license made to this one.You feel as if you are watching the events as they happened in real life.
A fantastic historical movie that actually gets its history right, I give Bridge of Spies a standing 5 out of 5 stars, with a strong recommendation that you go see this in theaters ASAP.