Monday, October 19, 2015

Bridge of Spies Review: Historic Thriller Compels with Strong Ideas and Lead

There have been many historical films dealing with wars and those who fight in them, but rarely do we see movies pertaining to the Cold War. The idea of the US and Russia going against one another has been captured in a celluloid format, but rarely get to see dramas dealing with the events that made up this period in time. Fortunately the iconic director, Steven Spielberg, show us tension between the Soviet Union and the USA in the new historical drama: Bridge of Spies. Bridge of Spies captures the U-2 incident in 1960 where  attorney James Donovan not only had to defend an accused spy, but also negotiate the return of a US spy. With Spielberg helming the film, this movie was bound to get moviegoers' attention; but does Bridge of Spies do the true events justice, or should this historical drama found guilty?

Bridge of Spies captures the story of James Donovan (portrayed by Tom Hanks). Donovan is assigned to defend the accused Soviet spy: Rudolf Abel (portrayed by Mark Rylance). After dealing with the case and the scrutiny that followed, Donovan is then ask by the CIA to help negotiate the return of a US Spy Francis Gary Powers (portrayed by Austin Stowell). To guarantee the exchange, Donovan travels to Berlin to deal with negotiations, but things get even more complicated when Donovan seeks to release another American citizen who was imprisoned by East Germany.

When it came to its concept, the story of Bridge of Spies was quite good. The plot portrayed the U-2 incident in a rather grey fashion; which was appropriate. This direction in the story felt realistic by showing that the conflict was not black and white. While the story of James Donovan was solid in its structure, I cannot say the same thing about the film's subplot. The story presented the mission of Francis Powers, as well the incident dealing with Pryor, as a major points; but neither subplot had a major impact on the overall presentation until it came together with the main plot. Thankfully the plot's premise was done well enough to be thrilling as well as thought provoking.

Bridge of Spies was the type of film that relied on a strong lead; which it had in Tom Hanks as James Donovan. The compelling thing about this characterization of James Donovan was his tenacity. It seemed that Donovan knew his beliefs and stood by them. While this may seem like a bad way to develop a character, this direction did in fact work by putting Donovan in a situation that would put his moral being to the test. This was quite effective for Donovan's character, and Tom Hanks portrayed the lawyer in a way that was charismatic and engaging. While the characterization of James Donovan was effective, the rest of the cast did not come off nearly as strong. Most of the other cast members either played characters that were effective but two dimensional, or were great actors with little screentime. The only exception to this was Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel. Though Abel did not much direction after his trial, this take on the Soviet spy made for an intriguing character, and Rylance provided a rich performance.

There was not much to Bridge of Spies when it came to the technical aspects. The cinematography to the film was fitting for the time period depicted in the film, and benefited the movie's overall tone. Though the effects to the U-2 plane were not the strongest attribute to the movie's look. The score by Thomas Newman had a sense of variety to it. The music showcased the tension of the whole situation while featuring a soothing tune for movie's more quiet moments.  There was definitely a subtle approach in Spielberg's direction with this film, but it seemed to work given the context behind Bridge of Spies.

When it comes to being a historical thriller, Bridge of Spies was effective. While the presentation could have been stronger with a  more compelling subplot as well as a stronger supporting cast, the movie made up for this with its enticing story elements and the great performance from Tom Hanks. Bridge of Spies is different film from Steven Spielberg ,and it is one that I feel does justice to the events that made up the U-2 incident.