2015 / Director. Steven Spielberg.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I am reluctant to review Steven Spielberg films. The man is my cinematic hero and my bias is transparent. Each film is makes is a movie-going event for me and I enter into them with a giddy enthusiasm that no other director can extract from me. And so let that be a disclaimer before I discuss his latest film BRIDGE OF SPIES.
Spielberg and Tom Hanks have enjoyed a strong working relationship for over thirty years, dating back to titles like THE MONEY PIT and JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO. As actor & director BRIDGE OF SPIES marks their fourth collaboration, not to mention their numerous projects as co-producers. It's a working relationship built upon mutual respect and as proven to be a winning partnership.
BRIDGE OF SPIES is the true story of James B Donovan, a respected lawyer who was employed by the US government to represent a suspected Russian spy and facilitate a prisoner exchange with the Russians during the height of the cold war. Taking on such a monumental task came with great personal sacrifice and saw Donovan become one of the most hated men in the country. His loyalty to the constitution and sense of honest legal justice put his family in grave danger against public outrage as he profusely adhered to the law, despite pressure from his colleagues and superiors to do otherwise.
The story in itself is fascinating and has been adapted previously in the film FRANCIS GARY POWERS: THE TRUE STORY OF THE U-2 SPY INCIDENT (1976) and what Spielberg brings to his adaptation is an unfaltering recreation of the period and an impeccable production design. From its incredible opening scene right to the closing frame, BRIDGE OF SPIES boasts one of the most visually compelling aesthetics that Spielberg has ever achieved with his dramatical work. The set design is rich in texture and the dark brooding colour schemes lend the film an almost noir-like quality that recalls early espionage films of Hitchcock and resembles the likes of THE THIRD MAN.
The cast is exceptional and Tom Hank's performance speaks for itself. He is clearly in charge of his character and he commands the screen as he does best. Watching him is a pleasure and some of his monologues and expressions are insanely good. The stand-out, however, is Mark Rylance as the suspected Russian spy. He might be a new face to many average movie-goers but he is no stranger to the screen with an impressive catalogue of films, television and theatre to his name. My God, he is a stunning in BRIDGE OF SPIES. As captivating a performance as I can recall ever seeing. There's a chilling calmness to his character's persona and Rylance delivers his performance with a confident restrain that elevates the film beyond it's Spielberg status.
The film's pacing is on-point and where it ever-so-slightly lags in the middle, it recovers with a compelling and thrilling final act. Spielberg's ability to pin-ball between fantasy and drama is unparalleled and BRIDGE OF SPIES rests comfortably amongst his previous war themed dramatic films. Perhaps my bias is too evident, but I will have no reservations listing this film amongst my top ten for the year... top five even. It's stunning.