Bridge of Spies is a fairly solid, if slightly slow cold war film, directed by Spielberg, with his old mate Tom Hanks in the lead role. Hanks plays an insurance lawyer, James B. Donovan, who is asked by the US Government to represent a man accused of spying for the KGB. Somehow, he then ends up negotiating a swap of the accused KGB man and an American pilot captured flying in Soviet airspace, plus some American student on a bridge in Berlin, Germany soon after the raising of the Berlin Wall. It’s a includes all the usual Spielberg stuff, particularly solid directing, and some kind of overly positive and hopeful message throughout. Nicely done.
The film is enjoyable, playing on the usual cold was stuff, dark gloomy images of the USSR and East Germany, a heroic American, and stakes that seem to indicate all of humanity was at stake. The only real negative was the second tier acting - obviously Hanks is stellar and his wife is played by someone from The Wire, so you can’t go wrong there, but some of the other casting was a little questionable. Sometimes they tried to convey a bit too much in a short period of time, and that took a little away from the realism of the show. But again, with Spielberg sometimes the realism doesn’t matter as much as the heroism, and Hanks was undoubtedly a hero.
Strangely, the thing I was considering as I left the cinema was that the trailer was fairly misleading. The movie is essentially dialogue and storyline, there is little actual “action”, which obviously makes it difficult to sell in short clip. But they have to try, so they turned it into this:
When I watched the trailer, I was a little worried to go see the film. There were bombs and kids crying? The Cold War was truly at stake? That is certainly the way it seemed, and I was actually a little (a very little) worried about going at night, I thought it could be a bit much. But the movie was as I described, pretty dialogue heavy - sure there were some tense moments, but it never really felt life or death in any way. The most intense action was when Hanks got his jacket stolen by an East Berlin gang, and even that was a cordial exchange. So why have the crazy trailer?
I guess this is becoming a pretty common trend. The trailer is long and generally gives away most of the story. It uses all the best lines, and even gives you an unrealistic impression of the film. In this case, what is a dialogue heavy, intricate story, looks like an action packed thriller. (It actually made me want to see it less, but for the short attention span world, it might have worked). But you can see what the idea is, the more exciting and action packed it looks, the more likely people are to see it, after all how do you sell dialogue in 1 minute? It’s like having a minute to try and sell an iPhone to a 95 year old - pretty difficult.
Movie trailers have been trending like this for a while, but there must of been a turning point somewhere. Some movie must have bombed for having a bad trailer, and as a result, Hollywood has just kept running one way and never looked back. The more I thought about it, the more I thought this could be called the Fight Club effect. After all, isn’t that the go to example of the film that bombed in the theatres because it wasn’t promoted properly? The Wire of film? Now that Fincher is confirmed as a directing genius and Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are household names, it’s hard to believe the movie even needed selling, but it did, and it didn’t get sold very well. It only became popular when it left the cinema’s and everyone started realising it’s brilliance. It’s poor performance in the cinema’s can probably be blamed on the trailer; obviously it’s a difficult idea to explain in 1-2 minutes, but they tried to with dialogue, and they erred so far on the side of non explanation that it is really hard to figure out what the movie could be about.
Could this have started it? Maybe.
In the mean time, if you like a smart film with some suspense, good guys, bad guys and a happy ending, you'll like Bridge of Spies.