By Nico Beland
Movie Review: A (3 ½ stars)
DREAMWORKS PICTURES AND 20TH CENTURY FOX
From director Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Lincoln) comes his latest collaboration with Oscar® winning actor, Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away), a Cold War espionage thriller based on the actual events of the 1960 U-2 incident known as Bridge of Spies, Spielberg and Hanks’ fourth film collaboration together with the other three being Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, and The Terminal. But they’re not the only talents behind this film, its screenplay is also written by the critically praised Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men, Burn After Reading, True Grit) whom Spielberg previously worked with on their 2011 Western, True Grit.
While I wouldn’t consider Bridge of Spies to be one of my top Steven Spielberg movies, it’s still a well executed and gripping thriller and his directing talent shines through, and like Munich, War Horse, and Lincoln, Bridge of Spies proves that Spielberg isn’t just a big budget summer blockbuster director. I’m not exactly sure how historically accurate the movie is, but from what I read about the film through reviews and articles, it’s pretty accurate as a dramatization of the actual event and it succeeds on its own in being an entertaining movie.
Set during the Cold War, Tom Hanks stars as American attorney, James B. Donovan, tasked with negotiating the release of a U-2 spy plane pilot who was shot down in Russia. Meanwhile the FBI has arrested and prosecuted KGB Russian spy, Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance-The Other Boleyn Girl, Anonymous, Wolf Hall) and Donovan is asked by his partners to take on Abel’s defense, he must be seen to get a fair trial to reduce the incident’s value as Soviet propaganda.
Donovan plans to do a trade with Russia, let American U-2 spy plane pilot, Francis Powers (Austin Stowell-Whiplash) and American economics student, Frederic Pryor, who came to Germany to visit his girlfriend, only to be captured by German law enforcement go and he’ll give them Abel in return.
Overall, Bridge of Spies is a gripping and intelligent thriller, thanks to solid directing by Steven Spielberg, smart writing by the Coen Brothers, and an Oscar® worthy performance by Tom Hanks. It’s certainly one of their best collaborations alongside Saving Private Ryan and Catch Me If You Can, and it’s better than The Terminal.
No worries to anyone sensitive to graphic or extreme violence, unlike Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan, Bridge of Spies does not rely on heavy war violence, granted there are some intense moments, there’s nothing gory or heavily violent, also it’s not the focus of the movie. The focus is on these characters trying to arrange a perfect trade between America and Russia, and in this kind of movie, that’s where most of the focus should be.
And like many of his films, Tom Hanks delivers an incredible performance as James Donovan. Every movie I’ve seen with Tom Hanks, he usually does a great job, from Toy Story to Saving Private Ryan, even in movies I thought were okay, he’s usually good, and yes I am talking about The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, I think he deserves a Best Actor Oscar® nomination.
I wouldn’t consider Bridge of Spies to be one of my favorite Steven Spielberg movies, I still prefer E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and Lincoln over it, but does that mean I don’t think it’s a good Spielberg movie, absolutely not, it’s a great Spielberg movie.
If you’re a fan of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, you’ll have a thrilling time with Bridge of Spies, especially if you’re a history nut. I wouldn’t be surprised if it sweeps the Oscars® and if it wins, that’s more than enough reasons to see it for yourself.