Drew’s Rating: Ehhhhhh
Box Office: $15M
Beginning / End
It’s 1957 – NYPD agents acting on what was a “hot tip” bum rush the apartment of terminal bore and low caliber Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. Coincidentally, he happens to live at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, giving Spielberg an opportunity to showcase his second-rate symbolism and immediately try to legitimize the title for his film. Because it’s America and we wanted to create the illusion of a fair trial and fair representation, hotshot insurance attorney Jim Donovan (Tom Hanks) is on the case!
The film ends with an early AM prisoner exchange for downed U2 pilot Gary Powers on the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin, just as Rudolf Abel’s Wikipedia page will confirm as accurate. The film ends with a display of Spielberg’s paper thin attempt at 1960’s humor where Donovan’s family finds out on TV that dad wasn’t on a fishing trip in Scotland at all – he was a national hero! Boy had he put one over on them! As Dad is crashed out on the bed exhausted from his travels and international diplomacy, his wife looks on at him with quiet awe. That may be accurate for 1962 but we all know that this scene would have been more believable if she’d been calling him a lying SOB and threatening him with divorce. Ho hum.
Theater / Audience / 3D / Movie-Going Experience:
Sunday 10/18 3:30PM – AMC Northpark 15 – 2D
The film had a pretty good turnout and those strong people had the patience to hang around for one of Spielberg’s 2 hour and 15 minute snoozefests. The film tried to sprinkle in some humor to lighten the mood, and this crowd was desperate for a good laugh, but the best the film could provide was a light titter. If the humor in the film had been any more watered down, the actors would have been gargling their dialogue.
Steven Spielberg – Where do I begin? Spielberg’s films are either long, terrible or long and terrible. Luckily, this is one that fell just into the long category. 25 years ago he made Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. When he realized that he’d made a legitimately great film, he swore that he would never make that mistake again. When he realized that Schindler’s List might end up being a great film, he remembered his pledge and made sure to absolutely tank the picture with sappy BS in the 11th hour. Bridge of Spies is just another stop on his seemingly never-ending train ride of abject mediocrity.
Plot / Story:
America’s most middle-of-the-road director sends Tom Hanks and a cadre of character actors to tell the tale of one of the not-that-interesting stories from the cold war. Lawyer meets client, lawyer defends client, lawyer manages to get client out of the death penalty, U2 spy plane crashes, Berlin Wall gets built, lawyer goes to Berlin in 1962 to negotiate prisoner exchange, lawyer works “twofer” deal to get another prisoner thrown in on Abel-for-Powers deal, lawyer and his dingbat wife celebrate over store-bought marmalade, THE END.
The script varied wildly from character to character, with some exhibiting very pointed and intelligent dialogue and others spewing throwaway boilerplate tripe. There were enough well scripted roles, Hanks included, that they were almost able to save the film from perennial hack Spielberg.
Yes, this film has a score. And not one of those in-the-background scores that make sense for a long film of this nature. This is a score that has a penchant to relentlessly barge in – again and again through the course of the film. Will someone for the love of god please pull Spielberg aside and remind him that the golden age of film that he is merciless in his ongoing attempts to try to rip off is long over?
Cast / Acting:
Tom Hanks – James Donovan: Always watchable, and unquestionably one of the country’s finest and most beloved actors, Hanks delivered a solid B performance. Had he had further reach to mitigate the aspects of the film that Spielberg seemed dead set on watering down into oblivion, this review may be quite different. The story and performance, however, are nothing more than a completely defanged version of Charlie Wilson’s War.
Mark Rylance – Rudolf Abel: A character actor whom we have all seen before and who we’d be up all night trying to remember anything that he was in, Rylance was able to create a character that the moviegoer just barely cares about. He’s trying to play it stoic, the “strong, silent” type. In the end, he came off as dull as a lead butter knife. However, if Abel was in fact that much of a bore in real life, he killed it.
Scott Shepherd – Agent Hoffman: One of the brighter spots in the film, Shepherd delivered a solid and convincing performance as a CIA agent. While they were shooting on location, apparently he and Hanks had some time to duck out and get some rewrites into the script while Spielberg was busy getting fat on currywurst.
Alan Alda – Law Firm Partner Dude: Alda has had a truly amazing career. After playing the lead role and a character that everyone loved on MASH, he has managed to slog his way through Hollywood for the last 30 years playing turkey after turkey and delivering some of the industry’s most unmemorable performances. In an attempt to outdo himself once again, he delivers a performance that is so singularly unmemorable that you’re sure to forget it right up until you look at the cast list on the film’s IMDB page.
Amy Ryan – Mary Donovan: Not to be outdone by Alda, Amy Ryan racked ‘em up and knocked ‘em down, giving what may be one of the most wooden performances of a 50’s housewife since the films that were actually made in that era. She will leave you saying “Who Cares?” well into the parking lot and for most of the car ride home.
Stars / Final Verdict:
Buoyed by Hanks and some other very solid supporting performances, Bridge of Spies manages to transcend the fodder that has defined Spielberg over the past 15 years, landing at a respectable 2-1/2 stars (rounding up from 2-1/4). Do not bother going to see it in the theater unless you’re in search of a quiet place to take an afternoon map – wait until you’re stuck in a hotel room in BFE and have nothing else better to do – that is the proper forum for this cinematic experience.