Spielberg’s lighthearted take on the Cold War – ‘Bridge of Spies’ review

4.5 stars

Devin King | Reporter
October 16; 10:30 a.m.

In many ways, “Bridge of Spies,” the latest from Steven Spielberg, reminds me of my dad. It is a lighthearted experience that is straight to the point, full of wit and humor, but is not afraid to be serious when it needs to be.

My dad never dealt with foreign affairs but both he and the film have a goal they both strive for. For my dad, it is to raise a healthy family. For “Bridge of Spies,” it is to tell the true story of relatively unknown historical figure James B. Donovan in a compelling way. I would say that both have been successful in reaching their goals.

Taking place during the Cold War in late 1950s, Tom Hanks plays Donovan, an insurance lawyer chosen to represent Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), an alleged Soviet spy, in court. After the case, Donovan is sent to East Berlin for negotiations with the USSR involving the exchange of spies, after an American spy is found by the USSR. Donovan must become a metaphorical bridge between spies in order to protect the ones that have been found.

The Cold War was a tense time during which everyone worried about the start of conflict. The film does capture this very well, but the overall tone is not as serious as one would expect from this time period. There are plenty of moments where the stakes do run very high, which can lead to some very thrilling moments, but overall, the film is calm and collective, such as its main protagonist. There are plenty of people who get in his way, both in America and behind the Iron Curtain, but Donovan is a man who does the right thing and tries not to stress too much over the obstacles in his way, even if the average person would.

Donovan and the events that he is involved in are both fascinating but the most interesting moments jump away from him and follow to the capture of spies. These scenes add some great variety in the storytelling and help paint an accurate picture of the era. The narrative is also complimented by the choice of not adding subtitles to conversations are in different languages, which are easily understood by the characters’ body language.

Hanks delivers a stellar performance as usual, reminding the audience that he is still one of the best actors around. However, the rest of the cast is excellent as well. Rylance is extremely charismatic on screen. It is hard not to enjoy his time.

While the cinematography is well done, the lighting is probably the best part of the visuals. The shadows are “painted” so intensely during certain parts, that it is easier to tell when things are serious. The film’s score, by Thomas Newman, features a wide variety of styles, from calm piano melodies to more intense violin pieces. The songs that feature foreign choir vocals are particularly eerie and strengthen the film’s foreign emotional appeal. Overall, it is one of the best film scores of the year.

“Bridge of Spies” may be Spielberg’s weakest period piece set in Germany, but considering his previous films, such as “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List,” it is hard to complain about the fact. It is a product worthy of its talent and is easily one of the better films of the year.

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