I thought it would be dull, Bridge of Spies. You know those old black and white movies where time stands still and all you can hear is a wooden clock ticking in the background, daring something to happen? Yeah, that. But while there were clocks ticking, they certainty weren’t slow in what is a tense, intelligent thriller from critically-acclaimed Director, Steven Spielberg.
Set in the 1960s cold war era, Bridge of Spies centres around a Russian spy who’s caught by the CIA, and, going to trial, requires representation as per USA statute. Step forward Tom Hanks. Ah, Tom. Rather now like a familiar grandfather, Tom plays the insurance lawyer picked to defend the Russian spy, even though he hasn’t performed criminal law in years. And that’s where the story really starts – with the relationship between Hanks’ character James Donovan and the Russian spy, Rudolf Abel played by the very talented Mark Rylance – and what a sublime job he does.
Statue still and barely moving, Rylance portrays the role of a man not resigned to his fate, but instead at ease with it and the world, whatever guise it is in. When Hanks’ Donovan asks him, upon the event of significant development, ‘Aren’t you worried?’ Abel replies, on more than one occasion, simply, ‘Would it help?’ And that really sums up not only the spy’s character, but the relationship, the friendship even, that grows between these two men.
But of course, being a thriller, a lot more happens. This film is set at a time when Germany was divided into east and west and we see that on the screen, not only the wall going up, but the direct consequences it has. It is sharp, atmospheric, a big winter soup of a movie with added kick. And it gets you thinking. Thinking of double standards, of how, when it comes down to it, governments demand certain behaviour of others, yet do not always display that same behaviour themselves. This film get you thinking about friendship and cultures and how sometimes we just need to be, well, nicer to each other, really. It may be from the 60s, but Bridge of Spies plays on themes that are just as relevant – and poignant – today.
The only downer? It’s a tad slow in the middle, could do with a scene or two ending up on the cutting floor, but still, Spielberg has made an oil painting of a film, one that, each time you peer at it looks just a little different. And it’s that difference, that perspective it gives – well, it’s weird, really, but it kind of follows you around even after you’ve left the cinema and you’re walking home in the pouring rain. Because, you see, when I got royally soaked by a passing truck and immediately went to my default ‘Aaargh!’ mode, I stopped, as, without even realizing, from the shadows of the movie I had just watched, one sentence drifted slap centre in my head: ‘Would it help?’
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Bridge of Spies is currently showing at cinemas across the UK & worldwide
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