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Bridge of Spies Review

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Taken from a screenplay by British writer Matt Charman and then dipped in the scripting genius of Joel and Ethan Coen, Bridge of Spies is a remarkable movie about a remarkable figure in history that none of us have ever heard of. That it’s directed by Steven Spielberg elevates it to a masterclass in storytelling that will grip you for the two hours twenty minute running time.  While the film is long, it is thankfully quality as well as quantity that make it worth parting with your time and cash.
 


It tells the true story of an insurance lawyer called James Donovan (Tom Hanks) who was tasked with defending Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) on suspicion of being a Russian spy during the Cold War in 1957. Part courtroom drama, part espionage thriller, Donovan finds himself embroiled in a tense political standoff when asked by the CIA to travel to East Berlin to trade his client for a US spy shot down in Russia.

The film opens with Abel, an accomplished artist, quietly painting a self-portrait, with Spielberg slowly revealing the skill of Abel’s craft in much the same way that he himself attempts his, with precision and a masterful eye for detail. You can feel Spielberg’s enthusiasm in every frame, each tiny detail painstakingly recreated from the period, another layer that adds to the rich tapestry he’s weaving. The film starts off slowly, brush stroke by brush stroke, the first forty minutes building the picture steadily until we see the outline and the real story begins to unveil itself. As the film moves to East Berlin for negotiations, it finds its light and shadow not only in the images but in the war of words Donovan must navigate in order to make the trade.





As a master filmmaker he gathers around him the best talent in front of and behind the camera and in his collaboration with regular cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and Tom Hanks (for the fourth time) they prove a crack team in telling this exceptional story. Hanks is brilliant as the determined lawyer with a staunch sense of justice no matter what the supposed crime and he delivers another great performance, bringing his uncanny mix of gravitas and heart that holds you spellbound until the final frame. Rylance too is mesmerising as the unassuming spy, delivering some of the Coen’s driest and coolest lines in the film.

Spielberg’s own father recounted to him his time spent on a foreign exchange in Russia, as the events in the film took place and you can sense his keenness to do it justice. As hastily dropped photographer’s flash bulbs crack under the shoes of Donovan and his wife (Amy Ryan) as they flee a media frenzy at the court house to the final concrete slab lowered into the Berlin Wall there is not a single frame thrown away or unconsidered. Highly recommended.


 
 

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The Movie Bit: Bridge of Spies Review
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