Film on Friday; Bridge of Spies

Mark Rylance and Tom Hanks are two of my favourite actors, and for almost the same reason. They're both ordinary people, and give off the feeling that if you met them in real life they'd be very nice (indeed, Tom Hanks gatecrashed a lady's wedding photos in Central Park while running; he stopped, wished the couple well, asked them their names and had lovely words to say, then posed as they had their official photograph with him before.... and this is the beautifully Him thing.... pulling out his own camera and asking, "Can I have a selfie with you folks? My wife won't believe this!")




They also don't over act. They know how to do nuanced, measured performances using every part of their face. And that ability gets used and used well in Bridge of Spies. With Mark Rylance as a Russian spy, Rudolf Abel and Tom Hanks as the civilian American lawyer James B Donovan who is drafted in to act as an independent emissary to negotiate the release of Gary Powers.

Written in parts surprisingly by the Coen brothers of Fargo and Burn After Reading fame, Bridge of Spies is a good-old-fashioned spy/legal thriller and drama. It garnered a truckload of positive reviews when it was released. The Guardian gave it five stars, and praise was given  to the superb direction of Mr Spielberg, the skillful use of compare and contrast and little touches of humour.... the false family who are all tears and concern until the Russian supremo walks in, when they turn, stiff backed and march off set, their role complete.


The plot is a true story, based on the real life handover of Gary Powers and Rudolf Abel, an American and a Russian respectively, during the real Cold War of the 1960's. You can read the Wikipedia entry for Bridge of Spies here, and people of my mother's generation remember it quite well. It must have been a tense, horrid, fearful time, with two great super powers lining up against each other and playing My Bomb's Bigger than Your Bomb. It's not a 'normal' spy thriller, no John Le Carre but subtle and well plotted. The pacing is good as well, and at no point does it feel like they are rushing on to finish.


Bridge of Spies captures the atmosphere well. It's filmed in murky grey tones that give the whole East Berlin a dingy, dirty post-war feel. Of course, there's a lot of signs of the war. Even 15 years after the end of the war, there are bombed out buildings and the place is less than the Splendid Capital Hitler dreamed of. A particularly gripping moment (in the trailer, so no spoilers here,) is when Donovan is travelling on the S-Bahn over the wall and witnesses a shooting by the East German police of someone trying to cross. I never saw Berlin divided but I did, in 1979, see the border between East and west Germany. It was not a welcoming sight, and the feeling of being watched and, worse still, of being watched by people prepared to kill, was not nice.

We watched the film as a family minus Sarah, who was out at a party. It was good enough to keep the teenage boys occupied. James being, as ever, pleased to watch a fellow James as hero, was most struck by the facts at the end. James B Donovan later went on to be sent to negotiate the release of 1,113 prisoners captured at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. By the time he finished, he had negotiated freedom for 9,000. You can read about James Donovan here.

I would recommend Bridge of Spies if you have enjoyed other legal or spy movies, and don't need it to be action packed. It's no Bourne thriller or Mission Impossible, but rather more like Hunt For Red October. 

Comments

  1. Grreat film, we watched this over here in France... but in English with French Subtitles!

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    1. Do you find that annoying? I find I read the subtitles and forget the movie; I'm just trained to reading whatever is up there....

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  2. This is one I wouldn't mind watching. I really like Tom Hanks, I don't think I've seen a film he's been in which I haven't enjoyed.

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    1. Erm.... I'm trying to think of one. I suppose there are saddies that I find harrowing, but still compelling. And I like the movies he's in usually. we watched Forrest Gump on Friday and it was good to see the children find it as good as I remembered it being.

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  3. Saw this film recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. Tom Hanks is a brilliant actor and I enjoy anything he is in (which is always good) Heard him on Desert Island Discs a few months ago and you're right he comes across as a really nice person. The sort you wouldn't mind living next door to!!

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    1. Yes, I heard the bit where he cried thinking about why he acts. To find a voice for his loneliness. I was in the office crying, and thinking what a nice guy.

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  4. I fancied watching this film when I saw the trailer but we never quite got round to going to the pictures to see it, so thanks for the recommendation - I think it's going to be a Saturday night's entertainment! xx

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    1. It's currently on Sky Cinema, so I don't know how long it would be before it gets to terrestrial, but if you've got Sky I say go for it!

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  5. I am in two minds about spy films but I am quite tempted by this one. I was in East Berlin two weeks before the fall of the wall. It was not welcoming then and bullet holes in the houses were not a rare sight. It is very trendy now of course, which is an awful lot better than dreary.
    When I came here (to your blog) earlier, your entire blog was showing in the comment box and it was not possible to write anything. I also had the option to edit stuff, for example delete other comments. I am not sure if others have that experience but I thought I'd let you know, in case there is a problem. Have a great weekend. x

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    1. Thank you for letting me know! Blogger has been really awkward for me recently, I'm so fed up with it, but don't quite think I'm ready to migrate yet. And thank you for the comment; this film is not your ordinary spy film, that's part of what's great about it!

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  6. I really want to see this movie. Tom Hanks is superb.
    Lisa x

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