Steven Spielberg and the Coen brothers aren’t a crossover many people expected. Aside from having each made a film with Tom Hanks in 2004 that was met with mixed reviews, the two don’t share much in common. However, it’s always nice to see two good artists come together, so while it’s not exactly a match made in heaven, I was still pretty pumped for Bridge of Spies. However, as previously stated, they’ve all had tough times in the past when working with Tom Hanks (no disrespect to Tom, who is near the top of my list of favorite actors), so this was really a project that could have gone either way.
And go either way it did. Much to my surprise, this film isn’t really an accurate representation of Spielberg or the Coens. It’s actually a fairly standard historical drama, aside from a few inches of skill to separate it from your typical J. Edgar. Hanks plays James Donovan, an attorney appointed to represent a man convicted of being a Russian spy. He’s found guilty, but manages to get out of a death sentence and gets thirty years in prison. Donovan is then tasked with negotiating a trade with the Soviet Union for an American hostage, while also separately negotiating with Germany and offering the same guy.
Things get sticky, and matters are complicated further by the newly-built Berlin Wall. The film doesn’t tell the story of one man or one event. Rather, like most historical films, it represents an era in world history. Namely, the Cold War in the late 1950s. The film draws a lot of parallels between the US and the USSR, but it’s mostly simple stuff. Just like any Cold War movie, Russia is sterile yet volatile while the US is hectic and welcoming. There are certainly clever concepts at play here (I especially liked the transitions between scenes), but it’s all a bit too basic to leave a lasting impression.
That being said, it’s a very fun movie. The plot is captivating, the characters are memorable, and the pacing is incredible considering the film is over 2 hours long. I’m not super into the orange/blue contrast, but when they go through the lengths of making all the furniture in every house orange and blue, it makes it a bit more impressive. One thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that in the final moments of the film, it made a big show out of the fact that Abel, the Russian spy, might have been about to be killed by his own people. But then, in the “where are they now” segment at the end, it reveals that he was reunited with his family and lived a happy life. I’m happy for the guy, I just find it disingenuous.
The truth is, I don’t have a ton to say about this film. I’d give it a B+. I definitely recommend you see it, but I don’t imagine it making my top ten this year. Like this post if you like it, comment if you’ve got something to say, follow my blog if you like it like it, you can also follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and be on the lookout for some more awesome articles coming around real quick.