Bridge of Spies Review
Bridge of Spies is a 2015 historical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance. It was nominated for six Oscars, but to me it’s such an obvious, deeply flawed movie.
It follows an American lawyer who has to negotiate the release of an American pilot from the Soviet Union in exchange for a captive KGB spy. The film starts off in a pretty good way with the first half being very well executed and dramatically solid. However, that all changes with its third act which is just so incredibly flawed with countless problems. First of all, the film expectedly has some overly emotional scenes near the end in a typically sentimental Spielbergian fashion. The next problem has to be its lack of nuance or any sophistication whatsoever. The film lacks the sophisticated dialogue it so clearly needs and that was just so annoying to witness.
And the biggest problem is its overly patriotic approach to storytelling with the film basically being a giant American propaganda. Russians torture their captives whereas Americans are of course so kind and professional with their captives. And of course our protagonist helps the foreigner despite their differences and he is basically declared a hero despite having some obnoxious behavior at times. Berlin is building a wall, Russians are cruel towards their captives and Americans are wonderful people that treat their people and even strangers with utmost respect. That was just appalling to witness and the film most definitely needed a different approach to make it somewhat original, but ends up being typical and obvious in the process. And Bridge of Spies is a representative example of everything that I find problematic in Spielberg’s directing – the overly sentimental approach, too patriotic approach to storytelling and such an evident lack of sophistication and nuance in its dialogue.
The characters are okay. James B. Donovan is mostly good, but at times so annoying. Rudolf Abel is a much better character as he is more realistic and more likable. And others are mostly forgettable, but for the most part the characters are presented in a grounded manner. The acting is really good as expected. Mark Rylance is very good, but I wouldn’t call his performance Oscar worthy. Tom Hanks is really good and despite me not liking his character, I like that Hanks was playing a somewhat different, not as good-hearted character as he usually plays. Everyone here delivers a good performance.
Bridge of Spies is a technically polished film that looks really good with some great cinematography and interesting choices in terms of color. The colors are gray and muted and accompany the scenes wonderfully. The camera movements are really good and that aerial action sequence is really well executed and thrilling to watch. The whole film benefits from an excellent attention to detail which is the most evident in that superb production design. It is really wonderful to watch. The score is also pretty good and at times even great and the tone is not too dramatic or too thrilling with some humor being there as well which was great. The dialogue is too simplistic and the film is incredibly straight-forward and literally anyone can understand it which is never a good sign. But it is solidly paced as the movie is stupendously entertaining for such a long running time. It is always interesting to follow and it is never boring.
But it is so on-the-nose and lacking subtlety that I found it annoying, especially in that unfortunate third act. I liked that it was more drama instead of action or thriller, but still the screenplay is really problematic. The recognition it deserved is baffling to me and the film was nominated for six Academy Awards which is just too much. Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture are highly undeserved whereas it was deservedly nominated in those technical categories with Best Production Design being the most deserved. But it is overrated and a typical Spielberg film for better and for worse.
Bridge of Spies is a technically polished film with excellent cinematography, great production design and a terrific attention to detail while also being always involving, well acted and entertaining to watch. But the film is also the most representative example of everything that I find wrong with Spielberg movies – some scenes are overly sentimental, the film lacks sophistication or subtlety in its dialogue or screenplay whatsoever and it is overly patriotic being essentially a giant American propaganda piece.