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Bridge of Spies review
My summary: An insurance lawyer is called upon to defend a soviet spy and then has to negotiate a deal with the Russians after they captured a US spy. The negotiation is made in East Berlin.
The Good: Tom Hanks has like a certain review points out "gone full Jimmy Stewart" in this tension-filled spy thriller. I am a fan of Tom Hanks, yes, and I believe he gives another one of his brilliant, even if not wholly original, performance. He commands the screen and is one who can't be shaken when it comes to defending the American values that are so important to us as Americans. He takes control of a situation that should be easily handled legally but in a time of Cold War paranoia even legal enforcers find it difficult to follow the rules. At one point a judge points out that nothing they did in a court case is necessarily legal, but they have "bigger problems" to be concerned about. The main theme of the film is sticking to the constitution even during a time of fear and uncertainty. Hank's character must work within a system that is rigged due to Cold War mindsets but must ensure that the spies be traded to benefit both sides before things get dangerous. The cinematography once again is gorgeous bringing the 1950s style and look out in the locations, clothing, and designs. This clearly is a Hollywood film with a big budget so I shouldn't be too surprised. I found the relationship between Hanks and the Soviet spy to be effective. It's interesting that the spy never gets nervous or shows any emotion. He clearly knows what's going on and what he's got himself into.
The Bad: The main problem is the plot and lack of anything great. There is very little plot to the film and I find this disturbing. Basically, it's just a man negotiating a trade and since it makes it obvious who you should be rooting for there isn't much to debate. You know Hanks is the guy who has everything right in the head and everyone else is either with him or against him and you already know what happens in the end. There's a lot of Spielberg melodramatic tricks to make you feel sad, happy, and wowed. After seeing many of his films I can spot it a lot easier than I did when I was younger. The film never really tries to give the other side a fair representation. All the naysayers in the film don't have very strong opposition which makes it too easy to root for Hanks. Also throughout the negotiation I never felt like Hanks was in terrifying danger. The worst thing that happens to him is he loses his jacket and gets a cold. Yeah he sees people shot and killed but never does it painfully effect him or does he get hurt at all. Nothing feels very grandiose or different which is the feeling I was hoping for after seeing the trailers.
Verdict: Popcorn fun
It's definitely not bad but it's the kind of film you don't need to see twice or think too hard about. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy a good performance by Tom Hanks and some interesting tension building cinematography. The story is easy to follow and at times is suspenseful. I kind of expected something better since Spielberg's last film Lincoln was much more effective. It clearly follows a Hollywood formula and tries to do more with it but can't pull much out of it. Films like this remind me of an adult version of a history project: you research information and facts on the events, put together a presentation, and present it with high polished visuals. With Lincoln it works, with Bridge of Spies it kind of slides. Just don't expect to think too much and don't expect anything new. But it's not a waste of time and you'll get your money's worth if you're just in the mood to be entertained.