The Hanks/Spielberg collaboration returns with Bridge of Spies, a gripping cold-war era drama based around the shadowy backroom deals between the US and Russian superpowers. Donovan (Hanks), an insurance lawyer, is drawn in by his law firm who have asked him to helm a very important case, the defence of captured Russian spy Rudolf Abel, brilliantly played by Mark Rylance. While everyone around calls for execution of a traitor, Donovan struggles to maintain the laws that he has sworn to uphold, and the rights which he believes everyone deserves.
This is Spielberg at his prime filmmaking form. Every performance is brilliant, every cut, shot, camera move, sound and gesture, is motivated and captured with precision. There’s nothing in this film that’s simply included to prove his artistic or technical quality, Spielberg set out to make the best version of the film he could and achieved it. The script, written by the Coen Brothers, blends heart, comedy, and drama seamlessly, causing even the briefest of characters to feel well-rounded and alive. The epitome of this are the scenes with Abel and Donovan (aided of course by Hanks and Rylance), as chemistry is masterfully structured between them by dialogue exemplifying the term ‘less is more’.
The representation of the time period is also brilliant, managing to capture the fear of the country and the results of this fear. This is helped by the camerawork and design which help set the time perfectly, from the costume, sets, music, and TV, to the warm glow of the 35mm film, with blooming window light, and grainy darkness. The time period isn’t forced down the audience’s throat with needless references or blunt exposition, which is rare enough for it to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of the film.
What stops Bridge of Spies from being truly incredible however is solely down to its story. While it doesn’t weigh the film down by any means, or indeed have a bad moment, it is just simply a good story. Sadly there’s not any story moments that stand strong or especially memorable within the film, and with characters and whole scenes that are essentially useless (no doubt kept in for realistic portrayal of the events), it leaves the film just a short distance from complete brilliance. Filmmaking of this quality can bolster any story, from a good story into a great film, and a great story into a masterpiece. This film is the first of the options.
Bridge of Spies (2015), directed by Steven Spielberg, is released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray by 20th Century Fox. Certificate 15.