AM At The Movies: ‘Bridge Of Spies’

Above: Tom Hanks stars in Steven Spielberg's 'Bridge of Spies'
Above: Tom Hanks stars in Steven Spielberg's 'Bridge of Spies'

Bridge of Spies
Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda
Director: Steven Spielberg

Run Time: 141 minutes

In a year filled with sequels, reboots and adaptations, it’s nice to know that there is still the odd fantastic film coming out of Hollywood these days. Nothing against popcorn flicks with big explosions, bad dialogue and massive overseas box office, but every so often, you want a sharp, smart, well-executed piece of drama and Bridge of Spies is just that.

It should come as no surprise given that it’s a team-up between Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg and the last two times they collaborated – Catch Me If You Can and Saving Private Ryan – were outstanding, but given how much mediocrity has hit the screen this year, getting confirmation was important and their third effort together was on par with the first two.

Hanks is his usual brilliant self, portraying insurance lawyer-turned-negotiator James B. Donovan with all the elements that tend to shine through in Hanks’ best performances. He’s intelligent and funny, hitting several quick, sharp beats over this two-hour-plus film, but more importantly, he draws you in without there being a point where you think, “Sure thing, Forrest Gump!” or “I’m not buying it, Robert Langdon!” the way you do with some stars.

From behind the camera, Spielberg hits his standard high level as well. Spies is rich even though a lot of it takes place in snowy, grey Berlin and the master presents a well-executed, engaging film that relies on the performances and the script, not special effects and established backstories to captivate the audience.

This movie nails the paranoia and panic that existed during the Cold War, with a “What to do in case of a nuclear attack” video for the Donovan kids at school, plus threats and confrontations for Donovan himself when he’s put in a position to defend an alleged Russian spy.

As great as the two legendary figures involved with this picture are, the real star is Mark Rylance, who plays said captured, alleged Russian spy, Rudolf Abel. The 55-year-old Englishman doesn’t say more than 100 words in the whole movie and never speaks above “safe for the library” levels, but his performance stands out and should earn him an Oscar nomination in a couple months.

There are going to be people that call this film “boring” and “slow,” but those people are just too warped by years of explosions and set pieces and “Oh hey I know those characters!” movies to appreciate something as patient and performance-driven as this.

If you’re thinking about going to the movies in the next week or so, do yourself a favour and see Bridge of Spies.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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