On paper, there’s no reason that this shouldn’t be the best film ever made. It’s directed by Steven Spielberg, arguably the best film maker of all time, has Tom Hanks in the lead role, one of the best actors of all time, supported by Mark Rylance, a criminally underrated British character actor, and has a script written by Joel and Ethan Cohen, master film makers in their own right. With all of those elements combined, this film really did have the potential to be one of the all time greats.
Bridge of Spies is the true story of James Donovan (Tom Hanks), an American lawyer during the cold war, who’s chosen to defend Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) in court, an all but proven Russian spy. While that case is going on, an American fighter pilot is captured in Russia, and it falls on Donovan to negotiate an exchange of personnel.
This is an intriguing set up. Wartime dramas and legal dramas both have natural tension built in, so the story isn’t short there, but what it is short on is pace. This should be, and in a way is a fascinating story, there’s just a bit too much of it. The film takes a long time to get going, with the ‘prisoner of war exchange’ element of the story not even being introduced until around the half way point, despite the fact that it’s in every synopsis of the film. This doesn’t quite lead to boredom, but I did feel my eyelids drooping at times.
The only reason this film kept me going was that it has such quality in other areas. Having already mentioned the incredible in front of and behind the camera talent involved, I don’t feel like I need to say how good any of them were, because they’re so reliable, and I don’t doubt that some of them will be receiving nominations (but not wins) come awards season.
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