Review of "Bridge of Spies (DVD)"

published 08/04/2016 | thedevilinme
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"Hanks and Rylance on top form!"

Bridge of Spies (DVD)

Bridge of Spies (DVD)

Star – Tom Hanks
Genre – Drama
Run Time – 142 minutes
Certificate –PG 13
Country – USA/Germany
Awards – Wins & Nominations
Amazon – £10.00 DVD (Blue Ray £14.99)
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So Bridge of Spies, Steven Spielberg’s latest Oscar run, the films greatest achievement to date to drag the much revered stage actor Mark Rylance back into film. Often quoted as ‘The greatest actor of his generation’, this rather shy and sweet little chap dominates The West End and Broadway stage by acting, directing and producing yet chooses not to trouble himself with the lucrative world of Hollywood film. But Bridge of Spies earned him his first Oscar for his excellent lead performance as a Russian spy and I have a feeling he will be back. When you look at his film cannon its rather contradictory to his stage career as he has picked some really oddball movies, including a pretty dire low budget Jason Statham gangster movie called Blitz. The Other Boleyn Girl was his last movie of note before Spielberg revved him up, of course, and was spectacularly good in Wolf Hall on the BBC.

The film is based on the true story of James B Donavan (played by Tom Hanks here), an American lawyer who defends a Russian Spy in a show trail in New York City and then converted into a full time negotiator for the CIA to help extract imprisoned Americans around the world, most of his work kept secret. It was eventually revealed he helped to negotiate the release of a total of 9, 703 people around the world, including a few thousand people after the bungled Cuban invasion at the Bay of Pigs.

This film looks at his less than celebrated role at the time – but most celebrated role today – of his help in the release of downed U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, blasted out of the heavens at 70,000ft by a Russian SAM missile in 1962. At the time Powers was unfairly judged feeble by his homeland for not pressing the self destruct button to blow up his top secret plane when he was hit and then take a suicide pill on the ground after his shoot opened. As far as the Americans concerned he probably blabbed all about the plane and missions in integration because of his ‘inaction's’. But the U2 pilots knew very little about the planes and missions for that very reason and, let’s face it; only in the movies do they swallow those pills. There would be no ticker-tape return for Powers and he would later die in a helicopter crash in 1977 working for a low end news station.

Cast

• Tom Hanks as James B. Donovan
• Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel
• Scott Shepherd as Agent Hoffman
• Amy Ryan as Mary McKenna Donovan
• Sebastian Koch as Wolfgang Vogel
• Alan Alda as Thomas Watters
• Austin Stowell as Francis Gary Powers
• Billy Magnussen as Doug Forrester
• Eve Hewson as Carol Donovan
• Jillian Lebling as Peggy Donovan
• Noah Schnapp as Roger Donovan
• Jesse Plemons as Joe Murphy
• Michael Gaston as Williams
• Peter McRobbie as Allen Dulles
• Domenick Lombardozzi as Agent Blasco
• Will Rogers as Frederic Pryor
• Dakin Matthews as Judge Mortimer W. Byers
• Stephen Kunken as William Tompkins
• Joshua Harto as Bates
• Mark Zak as Soviet Judge
• Edward James Hyland as Chief Justice Earl Warren
• Mikhail Gorevoy as Ivan Schischkin
• Burghart Klaußner as Harald Ott
...

Plot

US Attorney James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) has been called by the government of the United States to defend a Russian spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), collared in Brooklyn by the FBI. It’s the height of the Cold War and Donavan reticent at first in fear of what people will say about him defending a traitor. In those days anything like that could get you labeled a communist. But Donovan is a good man and decides to go along with it to uphold the law and every Americans right to a defense and, perhaps, rather too keen, the idea that Abel condemned to death in a show trial unappealing to Donavan.

Abel is found guilty and sentenced to 30-years; Donavan’s only success being Abel isn’t going to face the electric chair. Donavan is smart and knows they may need to keep hold of guys like Abel in case the Americans lose one or two of their own over there. And they are about to as pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is shot down over Russia in his U2 high altitude spay plane photographing the Motherland 10 miles below. It’s a covert CIA operation and so the kid on his own in Russia.

Two months later it’s decided that Donovan is the ideal man to go into Berlin and negotiate the swap of Abel for Power. He is a lawyer and proved his worth in court with Abel and so the right man to go over there as an unofficial representative of the US. This can not be seen as official in any way for both sides.

Through covert back-channels the negotiations get underway. But as is The Berlin Wall, just beginning to go up to stop the growing number of Germans in the city fleeing to the West and so the CIA and the lawyer must act fast. Donavan is sworn to secrecy and can not even tell his wife Mary (Amy Adams) where he is really going and what he has been doing, a wintery Berlin awaiting the lawyer to negotiate the deal as neither country can be seen to be swapping spies. Although Donavan has CIA support on the ground he is still his own man in the negotiations and so up to him how he plays it, and so throws a spanner in the works on asking for not one but two Americans to be swapped for Abel, a young American student being held as a pawn in the same game in West Berlin. It’s a high risk strategy that narks his handlers but appeases Donavan’s conscious. Let the spy craft begin.

Results

With a mostly-compelling story line and a particularly excellent performance from Oscar winner Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies is an enjoyable Cold War tale that manages to bring enough tension to its narrative to make it a worthwhile journey. Like Apollo 13, its one of those intriguing American true stories you don’t really know much about and so interesting to find out more and what better man than Spielberg to tell that story. I’m not 100% sure Tom Hanks is the right man in these types of movies to cast as the lead and I recall he was so wrong for some of his more serious movies - in my mind - like Philadelphia and Road to Perdition yet really good in stuff like Castaway and the Terminal as that slightly lighter character. Apart from Captain Phillips he has been pretty mainstream of late and so Bridge of Spies an excellent return to form. He is good here although his head is like a potato these days. Rylance is just great as the quiet, thoughtful and diminutive spy and almost steals the film.


Its surprisingly low budget of $40 million earned a moderate $165 million back, Spielberg becoming that kind of director and less mainstream commercial these days. He doesn’t make the Jurassic Parks and ET’s anymore and more the introspective story teller these days, the rather excellent ‘Munich’ where he is at now. He is still one of the best though and still my favorite and Bridge of Spies all perfectly fine and enjoyable. It is not in the top end of his cannon but still some of the Spielberg magic there.

It’s a good story to be told, looks authentic and although rather melodramatic in places and the true story certainly manipulated for narrative reasons to make a movie out of events it’s an enjoyable experience all the same. Power was a U2 pilot for 5 years (not one) until he was shot down and Rudolf Abels spy career rather minimal at the time he was knicked in the late 1950s. The FBI basically rounded up a load of low level spies they knew about to try and create a Russian spy ring on the East Coast as part of the Cold War paranoia build back then to get the people onside around the Cuban Crisis. Apparently Abel mostly trained covert radio operators in America than the glamour gig of gathering nuclear secrets. But why spoil a good movie, which Bridge of Spies is. I wouldn’t put in the top 10 movies of the year like The Academy has though and good but not great.

RATINGS


Imdb.com – 7/6 /10.0 (146.637votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 92% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 81% critic’s approval

Trailer

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3682448/

Special Features


-A Case of the Cold War: Bridge of Spies-

Standard behind the scenes stuff with all cast & crew getting involved. Why the great Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks need to explain their movies we will never know.

Critics

.South China Morning Post –‘It's a mellow film which, much like Lincoln, aims for believability rather than excitement.

Reel reviews –‘The strength of the film lies in the bond developed between two men. A bond built on mutual respect and common understanding in a time when trusting the enemy could get you killed’.

Variety –‘ While the helmer's myth-making approach makes for great Capra-esque entertainment, younger auds may find it terribly old-fashioned - and they'd be right to think so, although Spielberg would be the first to admit it was his intention to play things classical’.


The Mirror –‘Bridge of Spies is a quality film featuring loads of commendable work, but Spielberg's glossy and exceedingly upbeat take on the material might make it more of a crowd-pleaser than an Oscar contender’.

The Independent –‘Steven Spielberg goes into Stanley Kramer mode for Bridge of Spies, a socially conscious tale of touch-and-go diplomacy at home, at the office, and on the global stage.

The NYPost –‘Locates the sweet spot for so much (superficially) disparate recent Spielberg: morally engaged and reflective, yet playful and funny and loose -- and with the formal beauty [of] one of American cinema's greatest mainstream artists’.
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Comments on this review

  • creativecaspro published 05/05/2016
    VH
  • DodoRabbit published 24/04/2016
    I'd love to see this film :)
  • Bollinger28 published 20/04/2016
    Excellent
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Product Information : Bridge of Spies (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

Actor(s) (Last name, First name): Hanks, Tom

EAN: 5039036076036

DVD Region: DVD

Video Category: Feature Film

Director(s) (Last name, First name): Spielberg, Steven

Classification: 12 years and over

Production Year: 2015

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