Bridge of Spies

2015 Cold War drama

Rating: 16/20

Plot: A lawyer hired to represent a suspected Soviet spy decides to take his job a little too seriously.

A terrific opener featuring Cold War spy vs. spy cat 'n' mouse stuff reminds me how much I'm longing for a Mad Magazine Spy vs. Spy movie. Before you scoff, just think about how great that could be. Adrien Brody would be both spies for obvious reasons.

Forgive me for being sidetracked already, but the Internet is telling me that a Spy vs. Spy movie has been in development for a long time. And that Ron Howard has been involved or rumored to be involved? I don't know for sure because I don't have time to read anything. I have a lot of blog posts to write here.

This Spielberg jam is a little color-by-numbers, but that doesn't lessen its impact. The true story intrigues. I like these movies about the quieter bits of the Cold War, ones without heads of state reaching for buttons. Spielberg's eye is as dependable as it always is, and the fuzzy lighting and period details work to give this an authentic vibe. Other than one action scene used in the trailer that probably tricked a lot of people into thinking this was going to be an action movie, this focuses on conversations behind closed doors. Spielberg creates tension effortlessly, most tensely in a trio of scenes--a foot-chase scene with umbrellas, Hanks' character's first trip from one side of the Berlin Wall to the other, and a climactic scene on a bridge. A schmaltzy ending and some music that's a little too predictable bog things down only a little bit. The Coens apparently helped punch up the script, and there are a lot of lines that felt like they came from Coen characters' mouths. And I mean that in a good way. It helped keep the dust off this one.

The performances are good. Hanks is Hanks, and although it's sometimes hard to forget that in his movies, his Everyman quality works perfectly here. Best Supporting Actor winner Mark Rylance gives this quietly brilliant performance, all hushed lines and sniffing. He's really really good without doing anything that you're likely to remember. And maybe if I had watched this movie in the 1960s, I wouldn't feel this way, but Rylance creates a character who is easy to sympathize and root for even though he's the enemy.

Historical dramas aren't my generally my thing, but the Cold War tensions are palpable in this, retaining the story's drive, and that keeps things interesting throughout.

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