“Everybody will hate me, but at least I will lose…”
When it comes to reviewing a film directed by Steven Spielberg, you never know how to approach it. Even though it has been weeks since I’ve seen it, the difficulties in this area just forced me to constantly rethink, knowing that in the end, it will be more about him than the actual film. Which additionally made things more complicated because the film itself demands questioning.
Inspired by the true events, Bridge of Spies follows a story about prisoners exchange between the Soviets and USA on the Glienecke bridge between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. After America captured Rudolf Abel, the Russian spy (Mark Rylance), civilian lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is given a rather difficult task by the CIA – to defend him in court. The acceptance of the role triggers a quick avalanche and Donovan is slowly drawn into a game he wasn’t prepared for. After Russia captured Gary Powers (Austin Stowell), the U2 spy-plane pilot, fearing they might betray them, both countries impatiently seek a way to retreat their men. Always optimistic Donovan becomes a liaison for this dramatic exchange .
Needless to say how wonderful Tom Hanks can be when he has to be arrogant on the screen, especially when slightly overwhelmed by optimism. Quite true when some say he was born for roles like these, and I am sure Spielberg would agree. When it comes to Hanks it’s rather expected from him to be brilliant, whatever the role is, mainly because with him everything looks so easy. And here in particular.
But with Mark Rylance too – a brilliant calm and sturdy portrayal by the man who will be a lead in the next Spielberg’s movie “The BFG”. The role of the Russian spy brought him one of his two Golden Globe nominations yesterday (second is in the Mini-Series category for “Wolf Hall”). Well, at least they didn’t act aloof toward his role like they did with all of the other aspects of this thriller. Let’s just hope the members of the Academy Awards won’t repeat their mistakes.
Janusz Kaminski’s photography and Thomas Newman music are quite simple but, as expected, very powerful. When it comes to the screenplay, it’s quite funny but even if the credits haven’t pointed out for you in the beginning, after approximately 10 minutes you would realise that Coen brothers are behind the script. The ease of Rudolf Abel is as typical Coen as it can be. Which proved a very valuable thing – in not so typical subject, they showed once more that they can be the masters of screenplay fluidity. Without a doubt, it will be nominated for an Oscar next month. If not, it will lead to some very questionable theories.
But what about the direction? What have we learned about the man this time?
This film managed to light a powerful spark in me, and instead of focusing on a clearly brilliant story, expected excellent Hanks’ portrayal and superb storytelling, it led me to the Curious Case of Steven Spielberg, the 3-time Oscar winning director . How is it that (almost) every time when this guy gets a script in his hands, he makes an Oscar worthy film? Is it really money, the power of manipulating the camera, or he just feels the moving art on an unquestionably high and rather unachievable level? Right in the beginning, where you don’t have a proper dialogue for a long time, you tend to question whether he just created a winning formula of a good thriller – does the lack of chit-chat actually raises the suspense?
The older you get, the better you are they say. Through the history of filmmaking, we had many examples that proved so. In Bridge of Spies for example we see the basis of Spielberg’s court drama “Amistad” from 1997. The same eager for a fight and justice, even in the most inexplicable times, is the main force in both releases.
But Spielberg might not have been that great if, within the film, he doesn’t manage to make you rethink the choices over and over again. For example, while making grounds on why he decided to defend a Russian spy, Hanks’ character said “everybody matters”. And coming back to that particular line is the best proof why the Curious Case of Steven Spielberg matters. And not only to filmmaking, but to the world in general. Does everybody really matter? What nowadays politics teach us about our own expectations in life when it comes to the outcome of the current diplomatic and political wars – refugees, Russia, USA, EU, NATO? All big players with their own set of rules.
Nobody can make you rethink your judgements, opinions and feelings in the end, the way Spielberg does. And there lies the beauty of his direction.