Bridge of Spies caught me off guard.
Based on the trailer, I was expecting an action-packed Steven Spielberg movie, like the ones we've come to love --Indiana Jones, Tintin, Jurassic Park. I wasn't expecting the slow pace, the minuscule action, and the dialogue driven story, more akin to his films Lincoln or Schindler’s List. I don't regret being wrong, though. This is a great film.
Tom Hanks, in his fourth collaboration with Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me if you Can, The Terminal) stars as James Donovan, an insurance lawyer who is thrust into defending a supposed Russian spy during the Cold War named Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) who every American wants dead. Donovan eventually has to negotiate a deal to bring Abel back to Berlin, in exchange for another spy, this one being an American, who will be brought back to the United States. Unlike the trailer, which gave too much away, I'm going to tell you no more. This is a story-driven movie based on a true story. It's also a very interesting choice for a true story. While most biopics go for epic stories about true American heroes, James Donovan is far from a household name. He did little of note before and after defending Able. This doesn't stop Spielberg and writers Matt Charman and the Coen Brothers from making a very entertaining film.
What I will take away from this film the most are the scenes between Hanks and Rylance. In an American movie set in the Cold War, the Russian spy is funny, charming, and steals the movie from Hanks, a difficult job. Hanks is still great here -- I won't pretend he wasn't -- but Rylance is fantastic as Abel. He was like a Russian Christoph Waltz to me, with a perfect charisma and humor thrown in to someone who we would normally dislike, or be taught to dislike by the film. It certainly has no bias.
However, not every scene is as memorable as these. While some scenes without Rylance are great, particularly towards the second half of the film, they’re just not as memorable as those with him. For example, towards the beginning of the movie, we keep switching between the trial of the Russian spy and a secret mission. It should be suspenseful and fun, but it feels out of place for me. It felt like they were doing it because they had to have it setup, and it didn’t end up flowing well with the story.
Overall, I think Bridge of Spies is a pretty great movie. I had a great time with it, and I think it’s very enjoyable. Is it a possible awards season contender? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun and very enjoyable night at the movies.