Bridge of Spies Review

16 Oct


The opening to Bridge of Spies consists of the film’s most riveting scenes. Largely wordless and scoreless, they introduce us to Soviet spy Rudolf Abel as he goes about his secret nickel-opening, coded message-receiving ways. He’s immediately an intriguing presence, Mark Rylance utilizing a bit of restraint in his great performance in order to subtly unearth layers. Rylance and Hanks–playing attorney James Donovan–are the one-two punch of the movie, their characters creating the central dynamic upon which Spielberg builds the story. Abel and Donovan are on two sides of the same coin, and the way we look at the two of them can be expanded to how we look at the Soviet Union and the United States or at the Cold War era and present day. There are connections galore.

The problem is that the middle of the film doesn’t quite flow as well as it should, seeing as it’s all about connecting three different storylines in preparation for the ending. There’s definitely some of that Coen brother humor in there to move things along, but it’s not enough to make up for the negatives arriving with the shift in focus (to Gary Powers and Frederic Pryor). It may all come back down to Donovan-Abel at the end, but it sure takes its sweet time–with underdeveloped supporting characters, I might add–getting there.

Spielberg is still able to keep things fairly interesting throughout, though, and heavy-handed parallel images aside (you’ll know it when you see it), his style keeps the film humming along nicely. He’s once again working with longtime cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, and they set the story in a world of shadows, of black and blue and gray punctuated by light. Fittingly, this is the story of integrity persevering through the darkness, of one man doing what he thinks is right rather than getting swallowed up by the corruption and by the politics. For half of the film, Donovan has to deal with an annoying cold while in Berlin, but this is not just a way to convey that Germany can get really damn chilly. It’s also a representation of the continued “cold” of the Cold War, of the way one man helped contribute to the prevention of actual war. He may be a forgotten aspect of those trying times, but he’s worth remembering.



-Sadly, Meg Ryan doesn’t get to do that much as Donovan’s wife.

-I have come to the conclusion that Jesse Plemons is in everything.

Photo credit: Bridge of Spies, DreamWorks Studios


10 Responses to “Bridge of Spies Review”

  1. Jordan Dodd October 16, 2015 at 4:55 pm #

    Hmmm… interesting. Spielberg is a director I admire but many of his films give me the shits…. this though I want to give a try, despite what sounds like a clunky middle.

  2. JustMeMike October 16, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    PB is right about the middle not being as well made as Act I and Act III, but if you allow for the introduction of Powers and Pryor you can overcome the fact that without them, the story of Donovan negotiating for a straight one and one exchange – Abel sitting in a US Federal prison would have made the story grow staler and staler. So what PB is saying and what I will with is that Powers and Pryor weren’t developed as characters at all.

    But the upside is that we got a grand performance out Hanks. Once a upon a time the American film going public were represented by Jimmy Stewart who was our Everyman. He was us 0 through and through. At the same time there, was Gregory Peck who was not an everyman – instead he was the man that many men wanted to.

    Hanks fills the space (across the generations) Hanks fits ever so nicely between the, HereHanks was excellent in a role vastly different that the one he played for Spielberg in Saving Pvt Ryan – but this was still an exceedingly enjoyable performance.

  3. killkenny16 October 17, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

    Jesse Plemons puts in WORK, man…

    This looks like it’s gonna be nominated for an Oscar (Spielberg+Hanks+Kaminski), so I’ll review it eventually, but it’s kind of a bummer that the consensus seems to be: “It’s good, not great.” That’s always enough to curb my enthusiasm.

  4. Jay October 21, 2015 at 10:45 pm #

    Even if it’s not perfect, I still need to see it.

  5. MovieManJackson October 22, 2015 at 9:34 pm #

    Nice pick-up on the middle. I didn’t really pick up on it, but I feel too it was a little disparate from the other acts. I have to say though, I liked this more than I had anticipated I would. No desire to rewatch again, but a solid entry into October. Great review Polarbears.

  6. peggyatthemovies November 11, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    Again, we agree! And again, I just saw it last week with the incomparable Steven Spielberg & Tom Hanks doing a Q & A afterwards along with Januz and the gang. If it hadn’t been a true story, I would have been all like ‘sooooo predictable’ – in the middle it was Mark Rylance who did it for me..While Hanks was good..he was FANTASTIC.. if he doesn’t get a nom for something here I will be pissed. And thank goodness Jesse I do like him so as an actor!! 😀

    • polarbears16 November 11, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

      Yup, Rylance was excellent! Lucky you got to see a Q&A with Spielberg and Hanks (and Boyle and Sorkin for Steve Jobs). Where were these special screenings?

      • peggyatthemovies November 11, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

        ummm.. Bridge of Spies was at Westwood Village & Steve Jobs was at the DGA.. again, both were special events.. not open to the public. :/ sending you an email

  7. Dean February 21, 2016 at 12:01 pm #

    You did mean Amy Ryan as donovans wife ?not meg.


  1. My Top 20 Films of 2015 | Polar Bears Watch TV - February 9, 2016

    […] We Do In the Shadows (this would likely be #21), 45 Years, Creed, Son of Saul, Brooklyn, Bridge of Spies, Beasts of No Nation, The Look of Silence, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, […]

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