Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg collaborating for the fourth time, with each of their three previous works being something special. The Coen Brothers, Ethan and Joel writing the screenplay, along with Matt Charman. An Original Musical Score by Thomas Newman. “What could go wrong with this one?“; was that thought that I had before entering the theater. Though I was a tad bit disappointed, I’m not necessarily complaining.
Bridge of Spies, I felt towards the end, like every Spielberg movie, tried to glorify America and the American way of life a bit too much. In fact the one thought I had in my head, coming out of the theater, was how it was strikingly similar to a previous, and perhaps the most successful and acclaimed, Hanks-Spielberg collaboration; Saving Private Ryan, in the “never leave a man behind” ideology that drove most of the drama and story in both of the films.
The impact of stage was evident on screen, as Bridge of Spies seemed to have a heavy influence from theater. Although this was expected considering Matt Charman, a famous and acclaimed playwright, co-wrote the screenplay alongside the Coen Brothers. Even in the acting, Amy Ryan, who has received two Tony nominations and Matt Rylance another well known face from the world of theater brought the magic of their performances on stage to the screen.
Tom Hanks, was wonderful as usual. It’s almost impossible for Hanks’ acting to be bad just like the characters he has played. The main argument, which Hanks’ critics, however insignificant their number may be, would use is how his filmography seems non-diverse with almost all of his roles coming playing a “true American”, patriotic, loyal, brave and his character impeccable with purely good intention. Though this is true and Hanks seems to have been typecast, but the sheer brilliance with which he performs leave no room to complain.
Matt Rylance, who had earlier dropped a chance to work with Spielberg on one of his many famous historical dramas, “Empire of the Sun” too puts in a great performance as the Russian Spy who is being defended by Tom Hanks. Being famous for his performances in Shakespeare plays, it’s no surprise the Rylance’s character believes that brevity is the soul of wit. His nature is silent, brooding, calculative, yet within a second he can change the mood of the whole scene, making you chuckle.
Amy Ryan too puts in a great performance, in a perhaps slightly under-written role as Hanks’ caring wife, it would’ve been interesting to see some more family drama in the first half of the film which was extremely slow and perhaps the main negative aspect in an otherwise well crafted film.
At the end of the day however, it’s the production and costume design of the film which helps it achieve brilliance. The stark difference in colors which can be noticed between the scenes in the United States and those in Germany and even the difference in palette between East and West Germany, this was of course expected, yet it manages to enhance the feel of the film, it does indeed feel too “American” all the time, but then again, it’s Spielberg and Hanks we’re talking about. This production design and the costumes and of course that brilliant screenplay help prevent Bridge of Spies become just another “historical drama” with modern people, talking like modern people waltz around on screen with clothes that are just trying too hard to seem that they’re in the right era.
I think the two most powerful scenes from this film were both set in the courtroom. Two courtrooms in 2 geographically and ideologically opposite countries, though the hero of one was Tom Hanks, and after that particular speech he delivered I’d totally want him to represent me in court if I ever ran into trouble. The second was the trial of the American U2 Pilot that the Russians (read Soviets), a small portion of this particular scene even featured in the trailer for the film. The sheer energy that this particular scene radiated was incomparable to any other part or aspect of the film, for me.
Thomas Newman has delivered yet another astounding score, though it wasn’t used much, Spielberg and his directorial genius let the actors do the talking. And like many other things about Bridge of Spies…..
I’m not complaining.