Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Bridge of Spies

***1/2 out of ****

With Bridge of Spies, Steven Spielberg is back from the brief hiatus, which followed 2012’s Lincoln, to give us another drama based on a story from the sidelines of history. The famous incident of Gary Powers, a U.S. spy pilot who was shot down over Soviet territory and captured during the cold war, is the mere background for the film’s hero, James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks). Donovan was a lawyer, who after risking his reputation in the defense of a convicted Russian spy’s (Mark Rylance) life, was pulled into the tricky world of international negotiation after the C.I.A. recruited him to propose a swap for the safe return of both captured men to their respective countries.

Other than one needless phony special effects action sequence, this movie is the solid rich filmmaking you can expect from Spielberg’s more serious fare. The guy knows how to frame a scene and conduct patient pacing.

As usual, he and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski will continue to shoot on celluloid as long as it is still an option. John Williams, now in his early eighties, probably felt daunted by the task of doing his regular contribution for a Spielberg film (while already busy on a certain space adventure movie) and opted out leaving the excellent Thomas Newman to compose in his stead.

However, I was pleasantly surprised how little of this film uses music, which is rare for Spielberg. The opening sequence is particularly more mysterious and suspenseful for it. 

The screenplay, which had a contribution from the Coen Brothers, cleverly plays with irony and ambiguity as the certainty of the movie’s world becomes increasingly grey. Without any surprise, Spielberg delivers again and I’m glad he’s still going strong.

Watch Paul Thomas Anderson interview Spielberg here!

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