If you’re wondering why “Bridge of Spies” made the cut for this year’s Best Picture nominees, you don’t need to look any further than the director behind the film — Steven Spielberg.
This historical, drama-thriller, story of espionage and diplomacy, that’s based on actual events, has everything you would expect from a Spielberg film.
It’s beautifully acted. The cinematography is gorgeous. It’s also chock full of foreshadowing, and symbolic paralleled events. Its subject matter is also incredibly interesting.
Which is why it’s just so frustrating that it never hooks you in.
Set in the late 1950’s through the early 60’s, “Bridge of Spies,” tells the story of James Donovan (Tom Hanks), an insurance lawyer who represents a suspected KGB spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). The whole trial is a sham, its purpose purely to show that the U.S. is giving Abel fair treatment.
Donovan takes his job seriously and grows to like his client, and manages to get him a reduced sentence of 30 years imprisonment in place of a death sentence. The highly publicized trial makes Donovan less than popular. The trial takes place right in the middle of the cold war, and many see him as a traitor.
When a U.S. spy is captured by the Russians and an American grad student studying abroad is imprisoned in East Berlin, the United States is able to use Abel as leverage, and Donovan is tapped to go and negotiate at least one of their release.
I won’t lie to you. This part of the film is incredibly dry. There’s nothing exciting about diplomacy. Considering we’ve developed no emotional attachment to the characters at this time, the film relies heavily on the fact that you’ll care what happens to the two young men whose fates rest in the hands of Donovan. Which, unless you’re a sociopath, you probably do.
When all is said and done, “Bridge of Spies,” isn’t a bad film. It’s visually stunning at times and Mr. Rylance and Mr. Hanks both give their own best performances. However, there’s something to be said for establishing an emotional connection between your audience and the central characters, and the film doesn’t accomplish this important task.
In short, it’s worth seeing. However, you probably won’t be itching to sit through it again anytime soon.
…just for fun: