Bridge of Spies

November 9, 2015 at 12:30 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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There can be something very satisfying in a Spielberg movie. There won’t be anything remotely “indie” about it, it won’t be edgy or gritty and you can guess roughly where it’s going but it will also be immaculately crafted, well acted and it will usually leave you feeling good. To that end, “Bridge of Spies” is very classically Spielberg. Even his dirty streets and their thugs seem like you have just wandered down the wrong lane at Epcot. Nothing here is too horrifying and nothing truly dangerous feels at stake. Sometimes that gloss can feel distracting, like a veneer between you and the real world but, sometimes, that’s what you want from a film; not to be horrified or to have to stare into the darkest abyss but to watch good, old fashioned everyday folks being brave and noble and standing up for something important. That is this film. Insurance lawyer Jim Donovan (a perfectly cast Tom Hanks) is asked to step up and do his patriotic duty (take one for the team, so to speak). But Donovan is a man of integrity and, if he’s going to do his duty, then he’s going to do it right, doggone it. Based on the true story of Donovan’s defense of accused spy, Rudolf Abel, and his subsequent involvement in negotiating with the USSR and the GDR, the film has almost too much material to work with. Spielberg’s storytelling skill is well on display here and he was able to keep the fairly complex plot moving along and easily enough to follow. However, at almost 2 1/2 hours, it might feel a bit over long.  He could have left most of the U2 spy plane backstory in the cutting room, probably saving the film 20 or so minutes, but you would lose some depth and some of the weight of what was at stake. The story itself is interesting enough that I was entertained for most of the full time. There is very little here that will surprise you, though it helps to remember that these events were real and could have turned out any number of ways. Hanks plays well this type of noble, all-American character (think of his “Charlie Wilson”) and, though he is almost 20 years older than the man he plays (who actually died younger than Hanks is now), he was still he perfect actor for the role. He is our modern Jimmy Stewart and this is a very Jimmy Stewart role.  In fact, this is classic American filmmaking with drama and pathos but an overall sunny view of human beings. You’ll see some darkness but, you never have to worry, a bright day is coming just around the next bend in the tracks. Sometimes, that is exactly the film you want to see.

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