Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bridge of Spies

Movie Name: Bridge of Spies
Year of Release: 2015
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda, Amy Ryan, Jesse Plemons, Michael Gaston, Sebastian Koch, Billy Magnussen, Eve Hewson, Noah Schnapp, Dakin Matthews, Joe Forbrich
Genre: Drama, History
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Synopsis & Review:
Director Steven Spielberg is back, after the successful "Lincoln", which in the end won yet another Oscar for Daniel Day Lewis. Spielberg is indeed back with another feature, one that falls under his mantle of the "big important films". The film is inspired by actual events, takes place at the height of the cold war, the 1950s, and follows the story of attorney James B. Donovan, a senior partner at a law firm in Brooklyn, an admired professional who specializes in insurance law. When a Russian spy is caught on American soil, Donovan is hired to defend him. He manages to deter the sentence to life imprisonment, but when one American pilot is caught in Russian territory, Donovan is sent to East Berlin to secure a swap of these two politically antagonizing prisoners. On top of this, he also has to deal with an American student who has been imprisoned in East Berlin by the Communist regime of East Germany. It's up to his diplomatic skills to overcome these divisions and secure these swaps.
Steven Spielberg is, justifiably so, a legendary filmmaker. He has in his career so many admirable films, that the quality of his work is indisputable. However, he also has in his career films that are less than stellar, films that for some reason are less accomplished, namely "1941" and to a certain extent "Hook". "Bridge of Spies" is not by any means a bad feature: there's a level of polish and artistry, which may read as "classic storytelling". However, when analyzed a bit further, this film feels and looks like the work of someone on auto-pilot. The characters are vaguely drawn, such as Donovan's family - if they're going to be stand-ins for simple cliches, then why even present them (Amy Ryan is a fantastic actress, who ends up having nothing to do). Some characters are presented, then swiftly discarded (such as Alan Alda's senior associate at the law firm). Though the core of the film is indeed the negotiation, and the heightened sense of danger that the swap is meant to convey, that fear and anguish is never passed on, because ultimately, the film is sedate and doesn't present real characters - it portrays an amalgamation of different cliches from different films (a good example of tension and the true menace of the former East Block can be seen in Florian von Donnersmarck's "The Lives of Others").  The real highlight of the film is Mark Rylance, who creates an interesting character, a man who is weary, with depth, history and his own fears. The score of Thomas Newman is elegant as usual. A less than stellar film from a gifted film maker.